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Obama to roll out first TV ads defending his record on clean energy

By Matea Gold, Tribune Washington Bureau –

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign is launching its first television ad of the race Thursday to defend his ethics and energy policy.

The commercial pushes back aggressively at the conservative organization Americans for Prosperity, which launched its own $6-million ad campaign this week attacking the administration’s support for Solyndra. The failed solar energy company received a $535-million loan guarantee before declaring bankruptcy last year.

Obama’s ad accuses the group of being funded by “secretive billionaires” and defends the president’s record on clean energy, saying he has helped reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil.

With the spot—which begins airing Thursday on national cable and on broadcast television in Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin — Obama is effectively kicking off the general election before Republicans settle on a nominee.

The early start reflects the expectation among Democrats that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will emerge as the Republican challenger, as well as the need to bolster the president’s standing amid a barrage of attacks throughout the GOP primary process.

“Barack Obama’s unprecedented move indicates that he and his campaign team in Chicago are worried that voters have lost faith in his ability to lead,” Republican National Committee spokesman Ryan Tronovitch said.

It is unusual for an incumbent to begin airing commercials so early. In 2004, President George W. Bush’s campaign started running television ads in March.

“Budget permitting, it’s never too early to start defining your race, setting the storyline, and Romney won’t be able to do that for months,” Democratic media strategist Jim Jordan said. Romney often ignores his GOP competitors to focus on Obama, however.

“Obviously, too, this is an expression of confidence in their fundraising,” Jordan said.

Obama has plenty of funds at his disposal. Last quarter, he raised more than $42 million for his re-election campaign, along with another $24 million for the Democratic National Committee. In all, the re-election effort has raised more than $220 million since the campaign launched in April 2011.

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