Washington (CNN) – The 2012 election may be 22 months away, but the battle for a what may be a vulnerable Democratic-held Senate seat in North Dakota is already heating up.
Commonsense Ten, an independent Democratic aligned organization, tells CNN that its launching radio ads Friday defending the record of Sen. Kent Conrad, who faces what could be a difficult bid for re-election in 2012. Jim Jordan, one of the Democratic operatives who last year founded the group, says they'll spend around $30,000 on the ad buy. The group spent around $4 million in last year's midterm campaign.
The commercial describes the five-term Democratic senator as a "lifelong North Dakotan, champion for our ranches and family farms and fiscal conservative," and also describes Conrad as tough on the deficit. News of the ad buy was first reported by the Washington Post's "Morning Fix."
The commercial also slams "ads from out-of-state corporate interests" that attack Conrad. That's apparently a reference to commercials paid for by The American Future Fund, a conservative group based in Iowa.
Jordan, a former executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, says the ads are an attempt to try and balance the playing field from the just-concluded midterm election cycle, when outside groups supporting the GOP outspent Democratic-aligned outside groups.
In November's election, Republicans won back North Dakota's other Senate seat, with popular Gov. John Hoeven easily defeated Rep. Earl Pomeroy to succeed Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan, who decided not to run for re-election.
There's some speculation Conrad may also retire rather than run for re-election, but he's been very quiet about his plans for 2012.
Jordan says it's "too early to say," when asked where else Commonsense Ten may go up with ads.
–Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn