Despite the Millions, the List of Races Where Ugly Ads Are Not Working Grows
A new CNN analysis by Catherine Shoichet captures the scope and specifics of the Republican barrage of ugly immigration ads this cycle:
The Trump administration’s sweeping efforts to crack down on immigration aren’t on the ballot November 6. But in the lead up to a key election that will either reinforce the President’s agenda or hinder it, the issue is playing a defining role. Candidates and committees have shelled out more than $150 million on campaign ads dealing with immigration so far this year, a major increase over recent election cycles.
…So far in House, Senate and governor races this year, more than $124 million has been spent on more than 280,000 immigration-related TV ad spots, according to a CNN analysis of Kantar Media/CMAG data. That’s more than five times the amount spent during the 2014 midterms, when about $23 million was spent on less than 44,000 spots.
(For more, check out the new America’s Voice “Divide and Distract” website, including a searchable database of the worst of the worst immigration ads we’ve seen this cycle).
Much of this increased focus is being driven by Republicans adhering to the “divide and distract” strategy as directed by Trump and Stephen Miller and now adopted across the GOP. This cynical political strategy seeks to point the finger at immigrants in order to scare voters and distract from the GOP’s awful record on wages, healthcare and corruption.
How’s it working for the GOP? Well, here are some races where attacks have been launched, to no evident effect:
- In the Arizona-02 House race pitting Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick against Republican Lea Marquez Peterson, national Republicans tried immigration attack ads, but now seem to be conceding the race to Kirkpatrick and pulling money.
- In the Kansas-03 House race, where Republican incumbent Rep. Kevin Yoder is facing Democratic newcomer Sharice Davids, attacks on Davids seem to have fallen flat, and Davids seems poised to win the race.
- In the Virginia-10 House race, Republican incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock is being challenged by Democrat Jennifer Wexton. With Comstock running on MS-13 and Republicans spending millions of dollars in ugly anti-immigrant attacks against the Democrat, you might think they would have something to show for it. But recent polls have Wexton up by double digits.
- In the Pennsylvania senate race, in a state won by Trump, incumbent Democrat Bob Casey faces Trump’s handpicked challenger Lou Barletta, who is best known as an immigration hardliner. After months of attacking Casey on immigration, Barletta trails by 15%.
- In the Virginia senate race, incumbent Democratic Senator Tim Kaine faces Republican candidate Corey Stewart. Stewart rose to prominence in the state GOP because of his hardline immigration views. He has been strongly endorsed by Trump. Kaine currently leads by nearly 20%.
This should not be terribly surprising. The 2017 Virginia gubernatorial election should have offered a cautionary tale for the GOP. Republican Ed Gillespie relied on race-baiting MS-13 ads down to the stretch in hopes of overtaking Democrat Ralph Northam, and ended up losing by a whopping 9 points. As Geoff Garin, the pollster for Northam, recently told Robert Draper of the New York Times, “Gillespie ran the kinds of MS-13 ads that are now running in other parts of the country. We measured a real backlash to that advertising with suburban voters, in part because it connected Gillespie to the anti-immigrant thrust of Trump’s persona.”
Here’s a rundown of other early and special elections – in Florida, Pennsylvania, Florida, Missouri, Alabama, New York, and New Jersey – that underscore just how ineffective the GOP’s anti-immigrant scapegoating has been to date.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
The GOP’s strategy of stoking fear and blaming immigrants is ugly and desperate. But based on the evidence to date, it seems Americans are sick and tired of being divided and distracted. In response to the attempts by Trump and the Republican Party to ‘other’ immigrants and people of color, the majority of voters seem determined to deliver a powerful message to the President and his party: we want leaders who bring us together to make our lives better, not fear mongering politicians who divide us so they can line the pockets of their donors while picking ours; we want immigrants to be welcomed and treated fairly, not picked on and kicked out; we want a country where all of us, regardless of background and birthplace, are given a decent shot at the American Dream.