Republicans in Missouri don't yet officially have a candidate set to challenge Gov. Jay Nixon (D) in 2012, but they've latched on to an issue and are taking to the airwaves with their first radio ad, slamming the incumbent over state funded plane travel.
"Instead of doing the hard work to create new jobs, like neighboring states have, Nixon flew around in the state plane an average of once every three days since taking office, costing taxpayers over $400,000," the announcer of the ad says.
Missouri GOP executive director Lloyd Smith did not comment on the specific size of the buy but said "it's not a huge buy."
Nixon has been criticized by opponents for billing plane flights to state departments (the St. Louis Beacon points out in a roundup of the situation that previous Missouri governors have also been attacked by opponents for travel-related issues).
Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder (R), who sounds like he is all but in the race, offered some recent criticism of Nixon along the same lines at a state GOP gathering last weekend, the latest sign he is likely to launch a campaign.
"Taxpayers have paid for him and his wife to take a trip to a college basketball game in Kansas City and to watch a baseball game in St. Louis," Kinder said. "And, get this; we even paid for him to fly around the state to announce a moratorium on travel for everyone else in state government."
Nixon's spokesman defended the governor's travel arrangement as a way for him to meet with his constituents across the state.
"The Governor happens to believe it's important for elected officials to get out of Jefferson City and to spend more time listening to the needs of Missourians," said Nixon campaign spokesperson Jack Cardetti, in response to the ad. "So it's a little puzzling that they'd make a partisan political attack out of something we're proud of: traveling to every corner of the state to listen to Missourians and help businesses create jobs."
Updated at 12:15 p.m.