Washington (CNN) - Hours before Montana Democratic Lt. Gov. John Walsh gets sworn into the U.S. Senate, he's coming under attack by national Republican groups.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee went up early Tuesday with a website titled "Where's Walsh-o" that's critical of the new senator. And American Crossroads, the pro-GOP independent super PAC co-founded by Karl Rove, plans to welcome Walsh into the Senate with an attack ad that's set to run back in Montana.
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Walsh will be sworn into the Senate by Vice President Joe Biden just a few days after Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock Friday named Walsh to fill the remainder of the term of Sen. Max Baucus, who was overwhelmingly confirmed last week as U.S. ambassador to China.
Baucus, a six-term Democratic senator, announced last April that he would retire at the end of 2014 rather than run for re-election. In October, Walsh announced his bid to try to keep the seat in party hands.
Late last year the White House announced it would nominate Baucus as U.S. ambassador to China, spurring speculation that Bullock would name Walsh to serve as interim senator.
"John Walsh is Hard to Find These Days..." says the NRSC's website, which goes onto claim "That's because he doesn't like to answer questions about his disastrous record, his ability to lead, and a management record dominated by a culture of poor morale, inappropriate relationships and horrific personnel problems."
Walsh, 53, served as an adjutant general in the Montana National Guard, spending time in Iraq. His first run for office was in 2012, when he won election for lieutenant governor on the same ticket as Bullock. The governor's naming of Walsh as interim Senator gives him the power of incumbency, which means better name recognition and an easier ability to raise campaign cash, all things that will come in handy as Walsh prepares to fend off a primary challenge from former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger.
And it should also help in the general election. With Baucus gone, Republicans see Montana, a state that leans conservative, as a strong pickup possibility in the November midterms. The GOP needs to win back six Democratic held seats to reclaim control of the Senate. The Republicans have a strong candidate in Rep. Steve Daines, the likely GOP nominee.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was quick to defend Walsh and criticize the NRSC.
"Only a Washington insider like Steve Daines would call on his NRSC handlers to smear John Walsh's distinguished 33-year record of service leading the Montana National Guard. John's courage to stand up for Montana's servicemen is one of the many reasons he will be a great Senator and Steve Daines should be ashamed of himself for allowing the NRSC to attack John's selfless military service," DSCC press secretary Justin Barasky told CNN.
"The NRSC's baseless attack, which comes while they encourageTerri Lynn Land to hide her views on access to birth control, Bill Cassidy to hide his on a fair tax, and Dan Sullivan to hide behind the Koch's while they fire nearly 100 Alaska workers, reeks of hypocrisy."
The NRSC's also up with an internet ad in Montana that ties Walsh to President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"Harry Reid and President Obama have pulled all the strings they can to clear the way for their hand-picked, scandal-plagued choice John Walsh," said the narrator in the NRSC commercial, which the committee says will run on-line for 20 days.
Meanwhile, American Crossroads says it's spending six figures to run a TV commercial starting this week in Montana that takes on Walsh.
The Democrats currently have a 55-45 majority in the Senate (53 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the party), but are defending 21 of the 36 seats up for grabs in November's midterm elections. And half of those seats are located in red or purple states.