Republican Senate primaries in crucial Michigan race are heating up with claims the frontrunner is for Clinton

FIRST ON FOX: Republican Senate primaries in battleground Michigan are turning increasingly combative as a wealthy investor making his second bid for office pours big money into a major statewide advertising blitz targeting the front-runner in the race, who is being endorsed by former President Trump.

And a new campaign commercial from businessman Sandy Pensler, launching statewide in Michigan on Monday, takes aim at former Rep. Mike Rogers for his role a decade ago as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in the congressional investigation into the deaths of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The ad, first shared with Fox News on Monday, is the latest from the deep-pocketed entrepreneur who is self-funding his Senate bid. The spot is part of what Pensler's campaign says is a seven-figure ad buy across television, cable TV and digital.

Rogers, a former FBI special agent before serving in Congress, has the backing of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the Senate campaign arm. And in March, Rogers received the support of Trump, the party's presumptive presidential nominee. Rogers has worked with the former president twice in the past month at Trump campaign events in the crucial swing state of the Great Lakes.

TRUMP-BACKED CANDIDATE WANTS TO REVERSE DEMOCRAT SEAT IN KEY SENATE REGIONS

Former President Trump listens as Michigan Senate candidate and former Representative Mike Rogers speaks during a campaign rally in Freeland, Michigan, on May 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

In addition to Rogers and Pensler, the GOP's crowded primary field also includes former Rep. Justin Amash. The eventual Republican nominee will likely face Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin in November in the race to succeed longtime Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat who is not seeking reelection this year.

The seat is one of a few that Republicans plan to flip from blue to red in November as they try to regain the Senate majority they lost in the 2020 cycle.

The 30-second ad claims Rogers helped Hillary Clinton cover up key facts about the Benghazi attack. Clinton was secretary of state in then-President Obama's administration at the time of the attack that killed Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, U.S. Foreign Service officer Sean Smith and two CIA contractors.

The narrator in the Pensler spot calls the attack “Hillary Clinton's worst scandal” and charges that “Mike Rogers helped Hillary cover it up.”

WHAT HAPPENED DURING AND AFTER THE 2012 BENGHAZI ATTACK

The ad features a video clip of Kris Paronto, a former Army Ranger who was one of the few CIA-contracted guards who defended the consulate during the attack. Paronto and fellow guards said in a book that they were told by CIA and State Department officials to retreat for 20 minutes while the attack unfolded.

“I looked Mike Rogers in the eye and said if we hadn't delayed, we would have saved the ambassador's life,” Paronto says in the clip.

The narrator of the spot says that “Rogers called our soldiers liars.”

Rogers is then heard in an audio clip saying, “It's just all nonsense. This didn't happen like they said at the time.”

The report of the heavily polarized House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Investigations into Benghazi emphasized that bureaucratic and interagency blunders contributed to the Americans' deaths, but did not specifically blame Clinton or other U.S. officials.

“The actions of the Obama administration's White House and State Department before, during and after the terrorist attack in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, ranged from incompetence to deplorable political manipulation in the middle of an election season,” Rogers wrote in an op-ed . after the publication of the report.

Pensler's commercial is his second in a week. The previous ad, which was posted as Rogers joined Trump at a rally in Michigan, targeted Slotkin for failing to convict Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., over controversial comments the far-left member of the House 'Squad' House made about the war between Israel and Hamas.

“Rashida and Elissa, you have no moral compass,” Pensler says in the ad. “You are a disgrace to Michigan and America.”

6 KEY SENATE SEATS WILL BE REVERSED IN NOVEMBER

As they work to win a Senate election in Michigan for the first time in three decades, Republicans were hoping to avoid a potentially costly and combustible primary, especially with Slotkin facing little competition for the Democratic nomination.

Former Rep. Peter Meijer recently ended his campaign and former Detroit Police Chief James Craig dropped out of the race in February.

But Pensler promises to run ads during the Aug. 6 primary.

Sandy Pensler headshot scaled

Entrepreneur and investor Sandy Pensler is making his second bid for the Republican Senate nomination in the important state of Michigan.

“He's going to spend a serious amount of money,” Stu Sandler, a senior adviser to the Pensler campaign, told Fox News. “We just keep putting them on the air.”

NRSC spokesman Mike Berg said the committee would “do whatever it takes” to ensure Rogers is the party's nominee.

And NRSC Chairman Senator Steve Daines of Montana said at a recent Christian Science Monitor breakfast in the nation's capital, “I think Trump's endorsement of Mike Rogers really seals the deal in those primaries.”

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But Sandler, who served as NRSC political director last cycle when Sen. Rick Scott of Florida headed the committee, said “Michigan voters will decide this.”

The NRSC adopted a hands-off policy in the Republican Senate primaries in the 2022 cycle, which many blamed for a handful of divisive primaries that critics say contributed to the party's failure to maintain a Senate majority to win back.

This cycle, Daines and the NRSC have been hands-on, elevating candidates and, most importantly, avoiding nasty primaries.

When it comes to Trump, Pensler's campaign says its candidate is a strong supporter of the former president.

This is Pensler's second bid for the GOP Senate nomination in Michigan. He lost his 2018 bid to now-Rep. John James after James ran ads attacking Pensler for slamming Trump “behind closed doors.”

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more on our Fox News Digital election hub.

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