This Thursday New York Times article slipped under the radar until Howard Kurtz referred to it Sunday morning on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” Thanks for the hat tip, Howard. Anyway, it was rather shocking – even though it was buried on page A22 – to see a headline like “G.O.P. Ads Star Democratic Leader” at the Times. Even more amazing were the opening paragraphs (links to four of these ads follow):
Representative Melissa Bean of Illinois, a Democrat, has a Republican opponent in next week’s election, but he does not appear in the advertisement that skewers her. Instead, that role is being played by a fellow Democrat, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader.
Judging by some of the political name-calling in the final days before the elections, Ms. Pelosi seems to be in the thick of campaigns for Congress from Illinois to Georgia and several places in between. She is the unwitting star of at least a half-dozen television spots — and countless radio spots, direct-mail campaigns and candidate debates —warning voters that if they choose their local Democrat for Congress, they are also casting a vote for Ms. Pelosi.
After casting some doubt over whether this strategy will work given how little-known Pelosi is around the country, the article continued with a fairly anti-Nancy focus:
Still, many Republicans are betting that the prospect of Ms. Pelosi replacing Mr. Hastert as speaker should the Democrats take control of Congress will scare undecided voters into voting Republican.
“Nancy Pelosi is like kryptonite in Republican districts,” said Ed Patru, a spokesman for the Republican National Campaign Committee, which is paying for some of the advertisements. “We’d be more than happy to fly Nancy Pelosi in to those districts.”
The Times then shared some ad examples:
Here she is in one of the group’s advertisements against Ms. Bean: “Melissa Bean follows liberal Nancy Pelosi 83 percent of the time,” growls the announcer, over images of the Golden Gate Bridge and some not-particularly-flattering snapshots of Ms. Pelosi, who represents San Francisco. “Melissa Bean. Just a Nancy Pelosi wannabe.”
Mr. Patru said that the committee is encouraging candidates in “overwhelming red states” to invoke the specter of a Speaker Pelosi in their campaigns. The tactic mirrors one employed by Democrats in 1996, when the speaker, Newt Gingrich, became an antagonist in advertisements attacking Republican candidates.
“She’ll reward illegal aliens with welfare, food stamps and free education,” warns the announcer in an advertisement for Mac Collins, a Republican who is seeking to unseat Representative Jim Marshall in Georgia.
In one of the most fiercely contested races in Indiana, a Republican incumbent, Representative John Hostettler, has broadcast a commercial linking his Democratic challenger, Brad Ellsworth, to Ms. Pelosi. A radio spot went even further: “Pelosi will then put in motion her radical plan to advance the homosexual agenda, led by Barney Frank,” the narrator says.
Representative Charles H. Taylor, the Republican incumbent in North Carolina’s 11th District, goes for an even broader approach, linking his Democratic opponent, Heath Shuler, to Ms. Pelosi; Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee; and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The Times then summed up the rationale behind this strategy:
The television advertisements tend to share three features: images of Ms. Pelosi looking angry, startled or slightly bug-eyed; the words “liberal” and “San Francisco”; and dire tones reminiscent of the films shown to seventh-graders, warning of the dangers of marijuana.
The Republican National Campaign Committee even has a quiz on the home page of its Web site: “Which Nancy Pelosi quote do you find most disturbing?”
Ms. Pelosi is also used as a bat with which to beat on Democrats in debates and interviews. In Indiana, for example, Chris Chocola, a Republican incumbent, repeated Ms. Pelosi’s name throughout a debate with his Democratic challenger, Joe Donnelly. In Utah’s Second Congressional District, the Republican challenger, LaVar Christensen, has brought up her name incessantly on the campaign trail.
Among the many issues that surface in the advertisements — abortion, taxes and national security — immigration appears to be the most potent in Republican districts.
For example, an announcer in one advertisement produced by the campaign for Van Taylor, who is challenging a Democratic incumbent in Texas, warns over the sounds of a pounding kettle drum that his opponent, if elected, would pair up with Ms. Pelosi to raise taxes and offer welfare to immigrants. Voters are encouraged to “stop them” by voting for Mr. Taylor, to “protect our conservative values.”
As a post script, someone known to many NewsBusters members recommended five months ago that the GOP employ this campaign strategy as published by Real Clear Politics on June 5 in a piece entitled "Deriding Ms. Pelosi to Republican Victory in November":
For example, take any district or state where the Republicans have a vulnerable candidate. In that area, television ads should focus almost exclusively on the deplorable activities of Pelosi, Reid, and Conyers, and strongly assert that a vote for the Democrat candidate in that district or state is a vote to make Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the House, Harry Reid the Senate Majority Leader, and John Conyers not only the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, but also to preside over impeachment proceedings for President Bush.