Eight months before the first 2004 presidential primary, a pro-Republican group has unveiled attack ads targeting U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina (search).

On Tuesday, Americans for Job Security (search) unveiled two billboard-like ads destined for display in Iowa and New Hampshire and a TV ad the group hopes to air in Charlotte and Raleigh. All of them skewer Edwards, a Democratic presidential candidate, for his ties to trial lawyers and his opposition to placing caps on jury awards.

The group was founded by the American Insurance Association.

Edwards campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri said Edwards is being targeted because he "has stood in the way of Republicans passing the insurance industry's wish list. Frankly we are flattered by their assessment that Senator Edwards is the Democrat to attack in Iowa and New Hampshire."

The TV ad, a print version of which ran in Tuesday's edition of the News & Observer of Raleigh, also criticizes Edwards for buying a $3.8 million house in Georgetown, voting with liberal Sens. Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton, and opposing President Bush's proposed tax cuts.

"This is who John Edwards promised he'd fight for," reads the caption below a picture of "Ordinary People."

"This is who he fought for instead and what they gave him in return," reads the caption under a picture of "Wealthy Trial Lawyers" and cash representing $4.1 million in campaign funds.

The billboard-like ads will show up next month in the airports in Manchester, N.H., and Des Moines, Iowa, and will remain there for six months, said Michael Dubke, the group's president.

One of the ads decrying frivolous lawsuits features a picture of Edwards next to a picture of two donkeys.

"A Montana man named Jack Ass sued the MTV show 'Jackass' for $10 million," the caption says. "Next time you see him, tell John Edwards lawsuits like this are asinine."

Americans for Job Security is the second business group that has begun an anti-Edwards campaign. The American Tort Reform Association (search), co-founded by the American Medical Association, plans to launch an anti-Edwards Web site later this month.

In 2000, Americans for Job Security spent almost $1.8 million on ads attacking Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore.