In Georgia Senate race, a new GOP target: Bernie Sanders

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler hasn't directly attacked her GOP rival yet in the November race for her seat. But she found a different target with her latest TV ad in U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The 30-second spot released Tuesday features Loeffler in front of an American flag backdrop as she takes a swipe at the Democratic presidential front-runner.

“I’m Kelly Loeffler and I approve this message because I believe in America, that Bernie Sanders’ radical ideas are dangerous and that socialism risks everything that makes us great,” she said.

As she speaks, a new slogan appears under her name: "Stop Bernie Sanders' Socialism."

The ad is the third Loeffler has launched since she was appointed to fill retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat in December, and the second since Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins entered the contest.

It’s also the first ad in Georgia that plays into fears among some Democrats that Sanders’ rise could limit the party’s chances of retaking the U.S. Senate and doom re-election hopes for down-ticket candidates in competitive races.

In Georgia, many of those more moderate Democrats have either endorsed former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg or former Vice President Joe Biden. Sanders, meanwhile, has the support from only a handful of elected officials in Georgia.

The Vermont senator, a self-described democratic socialist, is soaring in national polls after he scored victories in New Hampshire and Nevada and only narrowly lost the Iowa caucus. He’s also leading in polling in several of the Super Tuesday states that vote on March 3.

Georgia Republicans are eager to press the attack, and seem likely to emphasize Sanders’ comments on “60 Minutes” in which he praised Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s education agenda even as he denounced his authoritarian philosophy.

Loeffler is one of five leading candidates in the November race to fill out the remaining two years of Isakson’s term. A trio of Democrats are also in the race: Entrepreneur Matt Lieberman, former federal prosecutor Ed Tarver and the Rev. Raphael Warnock of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.