Republicans accuse West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd (search) of sharply changing his priorities over the last five decades in the first television ad purchased by either of the campaign committees in a warmup to the 2006 congressional campaign.

The Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee announced Thursday it has spent "tens of thousands" of dollars for an ad that will start Friday and run on network and cable television in the Charleston, W.Va., market. The final amount spent and length of time the ad will run have not been settled, said Brian Nick, a committee spokesman.

The ad shows a picture of Byrd as a brown-haired young man with a bow tie and a fiddle under his chin that alternates with a picture of the white-haired senator, who is now 87. Byrd entered the Senate in 1958 and is in his eighth term.

"Byrd voted for soldiers in the 50s, but he voted against body armor in the War on Terror (search). Back then, he stood with working families ... today he votes for higher taxes for the middle class." The first claim refers to a 2003 bill providing money for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the second refers to Byrd's votes against President Bush's proposed tax cuts.

Ned Rose, chairman of Byrd's campaign committee, said Byrd is working to save the Air National Guard base in Charleston and improve health care for veterans. Byrd has fought GOP budget cuts for Medicaid, education, health care and job training, Rose said.

Byrd hasn't formally announced he will run for re-election, though aides say they expect him to run. The GOP field is uncertain, though Republican activists hope Rep. Shelly Moore Capito (search) challenges Byrd.

Byrd's seat is one of 33 Senate seats up for election in 2006.