The Republican National Committee on Wednesday began airing a television ad in Wisconsin that blames President Barack Obama and "union bosses" for standing in the way of economic reform.
The ad is an effort to bolster Republican Gov. Scott Walker as he tries to push through a measure that would take away most collective bargaining rights for state employees.
Obama has not been to Wisconsin since the protests began. But he has called Walker's proposal an assault on unions and urged other governors not to vilify public workers. Obama's political arm at the Democratic National Committee also helped mobilize demonstrators in coordination with unions.
The RNC ad shows scenes of pro-union demonstrators, saying they are "intimidating taxpayers" and "leaving classrooms empty." Some public schools closed temporarily because so many teachers were at the protests.
The ad also shows headlines that say unions spent $400 million to elect Obama in 2008 and another $280 million to help elect Democratic candidates last year.
It comes as polls show that Americans disagree with efforts to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employee unions by a nearly 2-1 margin.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said the ad was released on the Internet last week, but the RNC decided "to share our message with a larger audience and stand up to the union bosses trying to protect the status quo."
The ad will run through this week in Milwaukee and Madison, Wis., the state capital. RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski declined to specify the size of the ad buy.
Protests in Madison
Tens of thousands of pro-union demonstrators have protested in and around the state capitol building in Madison for more than two weeks in opposition to Walker's plan to curb union rights. Walker says it's necessary to help cover a $3.6 billion budget deficit. Unions say it's a political ploy to weaken organized labor.
Most of the demonstrators are union members, students and other pro-union protesters from Wisconsin, but national unions have helped mobilize additional protesters and speakers from out of state.
Also Wednesday, the liberal groups Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America released a new TV ad in Wisconsin accusing Walker of launching a "Republican war on working families."
The rival ad, which will air in the same media markets, accuses Walker and Republican lawmakers of giving $100 million in tax cuts to corporations.
"And now they're asking teachers and nurses to pay for it," the ad's announcer says. "And attacking workers' right to negotiate for fair benefits."