On the heels of his expected U.S. Senate primary win in Pennsylvania last week, Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta is now facing a rather unexpected opponent as he looks to November's showdown with incumbent Democrat Bob Casey.
Staring him down is Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group backed by the Koch brothers, Philly.com reported.
In what way is Americans for Prosperity a Barletta opponent?
Americans for Prosperity supports limited government and is running ads targeting 17 House members in both parties who supported a $1.3 trillion spending bill Congress passed in March, the outlet said — and one of group's targets is Barletta.
And given Americans for Prosperity typically has the GOP's back — the group campaigned heavily in 2016 for Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who won a narrow re-election in 2016 — the shot at Barletta is an eye-opener, Philly.com reported.
The plans to run online ads and send mailers criticizing Barletta, the outlet noted, adding that the mailer says Barletta “voted to increase waste that helped push spending to more than $4 trillion this year alone.” The ads are set to begin running over Memorial Day weekend, the Philly.com said.
Several other Pennsylvania Republicans also voted for the spending plan but aren't in the crosshairs of the AFP ad campaign, the outlet said. An AFP spokesman told Philly.com the group is taking aim at races that can "elevate" the spending issue.
In regard to the bill, Barletta stopped short of saying it had no faults and highlighted its call to increase military funding and $4 billion to fight the opioid crisis, Philly.com reported.
An uphill battle
Beyond the hit from the conservative group, Barletta faces an uphill battle as it is to unseat Casey, who ran in the Democratic Senate primary unopposed and sported over $10 million in campaign funds last month compared to Barletta's tally of just over $1 million.
And while President Donald Trump asked Barletta to run and supports him in what's been touted as one of the key Senate races, a Muhlenberg College poll gave Casey a 16-percentage-point advantage over Barletta in a hypothetical showdown.
What did Barletta have to say about the ad campaign?
Barletta offered an unfazed response to the ads.
“I have Bob Casey attacking me from the left and the Koch Brothers from the right," he said in a statement from his campaign, Philly.com reported. "If the far left and far right are against me, I must be doing the right thing for Pennsylvania."
TheBlaze on Thursday reached out to Barletta's campaign for additional reactions to the Americans for Prosperity ad campaign, but a representative had no further comment.
Who else in Pennsylvania is the ad campaign targeting?
Americans for Prosperity are taking aim at only one other Pennsylvania official — U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, Philly.com added.
Cartwright is running in a northeast Pennsylvania district that Trump took by about 10 percentage points, making Cartwright one of the country’s more vulnerable Democrats, the outlet said.
Update 5:01 p.m. ET: Lorenz Isidro, spokesperson for AFP's Pennsylvania chapter, told TheBlaze on Thursday he believes it's incorrect to call his group "opponents" of Barletta.
"We’re critical of his omnibus vote and hope he’ll ultimately demonstrate his commitment to fiscal restraint in the coming weeks and months as more spending bills make it to the House floor," Isidro noted, "but to say we’re opponents is a mischaracterization."
Isidro added that if Barletta "proves a commitment to fiscal restraint on some upcoming votes – like the FY2019 bill in the fall – then he just might be on the receiving end of some laudatory mailers."
This story has been updated.