CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With a formal announcement set for next week, Republicans are already attacking the US Senate's oldest member, Democrat Robert C. Byrd, for his intention to seek a record ninth term.
Ned Rose, chairman of the organization Friends of Robert C. Byrd, said in an e-mail to supporters that the senator, who is 87, will disclose his plans Wednesday at the state Capitol. ''Senator Byrd has always exemplified the courage, the strength, and the leadership that defines a statesman," Rose wrote. ''He has never flinched from a challenge."
Tom Gavin, a spokesman for Byrd, said on Thursday the senator has ''every intention to seek reelection. But I'm going to let the senator make his own announcement."
The Republican National Senatorial Committee has already launched ads attacking Byrd, and the senator has responded with his own television spot.
The Republican spot accuses Byrd of reversing positions on national defense, taxes, and flag-burning since he was first elected to the Senate in 1958. The 30- second spot that ran nationally in July shows a picture of Byrd as a young man with a fiddle under his chin that alternates with a picture of the white-haired senator.
''Senator Byrd: We agree he's changed. But is it good for West Virginia?" the ad asks.
At least three Republicans plan to seek the nomination for Byrd's seat. But US Representative Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican who is considered the GOP's best chance against Byrd, has not said whether she will challenge Byrd or seek a fourth term in the House.
Byrd, who won with 77.8 percent of the vote in 2000, hasn't lost an election since he ran for the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1946. He has been one of the leading opponents of the Iraq war.
Health was believed to be a factor in whether Byrd will seek reelection, both his own and that of his wife of 68 years, Erma Ora, who is seriously ill.