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A new analysis from Cook Political Report shows the extent of the Republican “divide-and-distract” midterm strategy anchored in stoking fear related to immigration.
While Democrats focus overwhelmingly on “kitchen table” issues like healthcare, wages, education and retirement security, Republicans are running on Trump, taxes, and immigration.
In May, Stephen Miller signalled to Breitbart that Republicans were going to make immigration a top issue in the runup to the 2018 elections. Today, an analysis of television ads by Amy Walter and her colleagues at Cook Report shows that to be true:
First, let’s start with the data. Jacob and Torie (with the help from CMAG/Kantar Media), categorized each ad run for a House or Senate candidate between January 1 and July 31 by both topic and partisanship. Since many ads mentioned multiple topics, one ad could be counted in multiple categories. For example, a Republican ad that mentions that a candidate’s commitment to “supporting President Trump” and building the wall, would be categorized as both immigration and pro-Trump.
As such, here is how to read the category of immigration: between January and July of 2018, 79,303 ads aired that mentioned immigration. Of those ads, 65,296 were sponsored by Republican candidates or Republican-leaning groups.
As you can see, Democrats are talking overwhelmingly about healthcare (with a healthy dose of anti-Trump), while Republicans are more evenly distributed between pro-Trump, taxes, and immigration.
Stephen Miller, an architect and defender of the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents, is setting the GOP’s political agenda.
Amy Walter posited a question about the general election:
So, what about immigration? Many of the ads run during the primaries featured GOP candidates boasting of their support for “the wall” This fall, we can expect to see Republicans go on the offense on immigration, labeling their Democratic candidates as too soft on “security” or “MS-13” or supportive of abolishing ICE. But, will Democrats go on the offense as well?
We’ve already seen the answer in some 2018 races. For example, in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, incumbent Republican Barbara Comstock has already launched an ad invoking MS-13, which was similar to the ads run by GOP gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie in 2017. Gillespie’s racist ads backfired, and in the 10th CD he lost by a 55-43 margin to Ralph Northam.
We expect to see more along these lines. Some Republicans still think Miller’s immigrant-bashing is one of the best tactics for the fall elections. In reality, they’ve got nothing else to offer besides ugly attacks. Instead of worrying about these attacks, Democrats should go on the offensive and call out the divisiveness and the effort to distract. Stand up for immigrants, pivot to healthcare, education, wages and retirement security, and make it clear that the American people deserve better than the divide-and-distract strategy the GOP is throwing at them. As for immigration, our recent polling in swing districts shows that voters are very angry over the Miller-inspired policy to separate children from their parents.
The following is a statement from Matt Hildreth, Political Director at America’s Voice:
Instead of supporting policies that benefit everyday Americans, Republicans have chosen to pursue a political strategy to divide us against each other based on what we look like, where we come from, and how much money we’ve have. And while we’re distracted, they push policies, like their tax plan, that only benefit their big donors. This election we need to join together and pick leaders who stand with us and fight for an America that we all deserve.