Top Democratic operatives are quietly building an aggressive campaign machine to battle huge Republican third-party spending and sway critical Senate races in 2012.

The strategists, including pros like longtime advisers to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, are putting the finishing touches on a group called the Majority PAC, a “super PAC” that can raise unlimited money to attack or support candidates. It is modeled on the third-party operation, Patriot Majority PAC, which ran bruising TV ads against tea party candidates like Reid’s opponent, Sharron Angle, last year and mocked one of his prospective challengers, Sue Lowden, for suggesting she would be open to bartering chickens for health care.

The Majority PAC’s emergence comes at a pivotal time for Senate Democrats. Not only do they need to defend 23 seats to Republicans’ 10 this cycle, they also must woo Democratic donors alongside President Barack Obama, who is preparing for his own reelection bid in 2012.

The all-star team, already mapping out prospective targets, could emerge as the key attacker of Republicans in Democrats’ battle to hang onto the Senate in 2012.

While the Majority PAC will be required to disclose its donors, it will be affiliated with an organization that isn’t. So at least some of the money could hail from anonymous donors, a tactic Democrats bitterly decried last year.

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What is Senate Majority PAC?

Senate Majority PAC is fighting to protect and expand the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate. In 2012, Karl Rove and his friends spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to buy the Senate. We ran low-overhead, high-impact campaigns to stop him—and we won. Now we’re ready to take on Mitch McConnell and his radical Republican caucus in 2014.

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