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DENVER — The Republican Governors Association is using the friendly game of pool Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper played with President Obama during last month at the Wynkoop Brewery here as a visual and thematic thread in its first TV ad against the governor, FOX31 Denver is first to report.

The RGA’s new 30-second spot, titled “Hustled”, begins with video footage of Hickenlooper and Obama playing pool.

“John Hickenlooper is a fun guy to shoot pool with,” the narrator starts out by saying. “But when it comes to making the tough decisions, Hickenlooper won’t step up to the table.

“He dropped the ball on mass murderer Nathan Dunlap and flip-flopped on gun rights. All while refusing to lead on immigration and critical tax relief.”

As the narrator goes through those examples, the ad cuts to staged shots of bad pool shots — a mis-hit, a scratch — leading to the ad’s conclusion.

“Colorado’s been hustled enough,” the narrator says. “We need a governor like Bob Beauprez who has a plan and isn’t afraid to step up and lead Colorado forward again.”

At the end, the video cuts to Republican Bob Beauprez, shown fist-bumping with supporters during a campaign kick-off event at the Tavern DTC; interestingly, video from that same event has already been used by another group, Republicans Who Want to Win, that was formed to help Beauprez stave off three other rivals earlier this year in the June GOP primary.

The RGA, it was later revealed, also supported Beauprez in the primary, despite its official pledge to remain neutral; a watchdog group found that the organization funneled money to Beauprez through the Republican Attorney Generals Association, much to the chagrin of second-place finisher Tom Tancredo.

The RGA has put $700,000 behind the ad, which is running on broadcast and cable in Colorado’s two largest media markets, Denver and Colorado Springs.

The line of attack, first brought into high relief last May by Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, who called Hickenlooper the “state bartender” following his decision to grant Dunlap a temporary reprieve, presses down on Hickenlooper’s biggest vulnerability — the consensus-driven governor’s apparent discomfort when forced to make difficult policy decisions that are certain to upset one side of the political spectrum or the other.

While the race has narrowed since Bob Beauprez won the GOP gubernatorial nomination in June, most analysts still view Hickenlooper as the favorite to win a second term; but a strong push from the RGA could keep things close.

In late July, the RGA chairman, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, came to Colorado to raise money for Beauprez and enthusiastically pledged his organization’s support through Election Day, telling reporters that the governor’s race is winnable.

“We don’t invest in lost causes,” Christie said. “If I show up somewhere, that means I believe the race is winnable. I don’t waste my time or waste our money just making somebody happy.”

Hickenlooper’s campaign responded later Tuesday with a video message from the governor and a promise to run a positive campaign.

“Four years ago we promised to run a positive campaign, and we did. We took the same approach across Colorado,” Hickenlooper says in the video. “We promised to focus on the economy and we did right away. Colorado has improved from 40th to 4th in the nation for job creation. And unemployment is down from 9.1 percent to 5.3 percent.

“In September 2013 when floods devastated our communities, we promised to get all roads and bridges open by December 1st, and we did before Thanksgiving.

“Keeping promises, working together, delivering results – that’s how we move Colorado up.”