Dan Coats and a Hard Landing for a Soft Launch

ABC News' Rick Klein reports: Former Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., confirmed to a radio interviewer today that his campaign for his old Senate seat is "up and running" -- but Democrats have already gone to great lengths to stop him in his tracks.

One week after making clear his intention to run against Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., Coats has been hit by a barrage of negative press -- much of it driven by opposition research .

Though he represented Indiana in Congress for 18 years, he’s been portrayed in recent days as both a Virginian and a North Carolinian . He’s been hit for lobbying ties to the governments of Yemen and Venezuela , not to mention the drug industry and big banks.

Perhaps most damaging, Coats has been painted as a Washington insider in a year where voters look likely to be hostile to such resumes. All this before Coats even formally announces his candidacy.

Said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Eric Schultz: “If Dan Coats thought the last six days were rough, think about what we can do with the next nine months.”

While Coats’ recruitment into the race was quickly celebrated by national Republicans, his candidacy has not driven other Republicans -- including former Rep. John Hostettler , R-Ind. -- out of the race.

Coats today told the Website Howey Politics Indiana that he’s the only Republican who can challenge Bayh successfully: “Simply seeing the enormity of what it is going to take, given his [Bayh's] resources, I would probably be the only person who could put together the network statewide, given my name recognition,” he said.

A spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Brian Walsh, said the efforts to tar Coats make clear that Democrats are scared of him: “The character assault on Senator Coats by Evan Bayh and his allies has made clear that he knows he can’t win this election on the issues that truly matter to voters like health care, jobs and spending. It also reveals the Democrats’ nervousness that yet another previously solid Democrat Senate seat will be in play and they’re scared.”

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