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Democratic group targets Collins, Murkowski with abortion-focused Supreme Court ads

Washington (CNN) A Democratic organization aiming to sink President Donald Trump's forthcoming Supreme Court nominee will begin airing ads targeting Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski on Thursday, pushing the moderate Republicans to vote against Trump's pick.

The ads from Demand Justice, released first to CNN, cast a vote for Trump's nominee to fill retiring justice Anthony Kennedy's seat as a vote against abortion rights, an issue that both pro-choice Republican senators have said is key to their decision.

"If Donald Trump has his way, the next Supreme Court pick will turn the court against a woman's constitutional right to safe legal abortion," says a narrator.

The senator "could be the deciding vote on Trump's pick for justice," the narrator adds. "She claims to support a woman's right to have an abortion, so why won't she rule out voting for Trump's anti-choice picks."

Demand Justice, a group that focuses on Trump's impact on the judicial branch, plans to spend $5 million in the effort, a spokesman for the group says, and will also target Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia -- all moderate lawmakers up for reelection in 2018 -- with ads focusing on how the nominee could impact health care affordability. The three lawmakers are seen as the Democrats most likely to support Trump's pick, given their precarious political standing.

Collins told CNN earlier this month that she would not "support a nominee who demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade because that would mean to me that their judicial philosophy did not include a respect for established decisions, established law."

Trump, who has met with both Collins and Murkowski about the picks, has signaled that overturning Roe v. Wade is a likely possibility, telling Fox News that abortion could be decided state-by-state, a fact that would mean overturning the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

"Maybe someday it will be to the states," he said earlier this month. "You never know how that's going to turn out. That's a very complex question. The Roe v. Wade is probably the one that people are talking about in terms of having an effect, but we'll see what happens. But it could very well end up with states at some point."

By focusing on Roe v. Wade, Demand Justice is putting pressure on a divide that puts the President outside what most Americans believe about abortion.

According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, 63% of voters agree with the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized the practice nationwide, while 31% disagree. Those who disagree are squarely in Trump's base, however, and are fiercely lobbying the President nominate someone who doesn't believe the decision is settled law.

Trump, who plans to announce his Supreme Court pick on Monday, July 9, has completed his scheduled interviews for the vacancy, according to an official familiar with the search. Trump met with at least seven contenders and is believed to have narrowed his list of potentials to two or three candidates.

The Supreme Court vacancy, however, has also energized Democrats, with countless outside groups preparing to fight the nomination.

The ad aimed at Murkowski and Collins also features one of Trump's more controversial remarks from 2016: When he told an MSNBC townhall that women should be punished for having an abortion.

"The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment," Trump says.

"For the woman," the host responds.

Trump adds, "Yeah."

Trump later walked back the remark.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny contributed to this report.
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