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Economy, House Race, Senate Race, Television Ad, Third-Party Ad

Monday, October 6, 2008 6:00 PM

The unpopular but necessary bailout package has been passed, and it will now recede into the background for the rest of the campaign season, right?

Not a chance.

The presidential candidates may be turning to new lines of attack, but the bailout bill is still red meat for plenty of congressional challengers, who are are spinning the $700 billion legislation in TV spots across the country.

John Gard, the GOP challenger in Wisconsin's 8th Congressional District, has been running an ad decrying the bailout plan since Sept. 26, several days before the House voted initially to reject the legislation. In the spot, Gard attacks his opponent, Rep. Steve Kagen, for supporting tax increases and then criticizes the bailout, saying that "Washington's got it wrong again" and implying that Kagen is part of that equation. Even though Kagen twice voted against the financial rescue bill, Gard campaign strategist Mark Graul credits his candidate with coming out against the proposal early on.

Other candidates and committees are sticking by the sports maxim that the best defense is a good offense. In Oregon, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is doing its best to spread the blame for the politically volatile legislation. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., voted for the bailout, while his Democratic opponent Jeff Merkley publicly opposed it; but on Thursday the NRSC began running "Bad Bet" (subscription), which tries to link Merkley to the bailout he opposed. The TV spot alleges that Merkley presided over deficit spending as speaker of the state House of Representatives. The ad continues by saying that, "just like Washington, Merkley borrows the money and mortgages our future."

"Jeff Merkley can come out against the bailout package all he wants, but it won’t change his record," said Mary-Sarah Kinner, NRSC deputy press secretary, in an e-mail. "We believe it’s important to warn voters against sending Merkley’s reckless economic record to Washington to fix the problems we currently have -- he will only make things worse."

For his part, Merkley fired back today with an ad linking Smith to the bailout and the Bush tax cuts.

Rep. Jim Marshall of Georgia's 8th district, is another incumbent with the bailout albatross around his neck. The Georgia Democrat, however, hopes to parlay his unpopular vote into an example of his ability to make tough choices in the face of criticism. In a new ad, "Economic Rescue" (subscription), he explains to his constituents why he voted in support of the bill.

"I approve this message because you elected me to do what's best for America," Marshall explains from his perch on the edge of a desk. "Not what's easy."

Doug Moore, a Marshall campaign spokesman, said the ad was designed to be "straight" with constituents who are unhappy with the congressman's support of the bill.

“He’s not 40 years old, and this is not what he wants to do with the rest of his life," Moore said. "I know it sounds trite, but even though it might cost him personally, he’s going to do the right thing.”

House Race

Wednesday, October 1, 2008 3:23 PM

Candidates around the country are increasingly turning to an effective but controversial technology known as behavioral targeting in order to reach potential voters online. The ads work by tracking Web users in order to identify the issues they're most interested in.

Businesses have used the ads for years, and both presidential campaigns employ them. But, as David Herbert explains in a new online exclusive, downballot candidates are increasingly getting in on the act -- even as Congress has recently held hearings into whether the technology intrudes on privacy rights.

House Race, Television Ad

Friday, July 11, 2008 2:45 PM

In an election year in which House Democrats expect to make major gains, in a state where Democrats hope to perform particularly well, perhaps no congressional district appears as likely to flip from red to blue as New York's 25th. The seat, soon to be vacated by retiring Rep. James Walsh, currently tops the Hotline list of the seats most likely to change hands, and early fundraising totals suggest businessman Dan Maffei will enjoy a sizable cash lead over his Republican opponent.

Putting his advantages to good use, Maffei this week became the first Democrat in the state to buy time for a TV ad, airing a biographical spot (subscription) highlighting his local roots and commitment to improving the economy. In the ad, Maffei talks about the Rust Belt district's economic downturn, noting that, "by the time I went to my 10th high school reunion, most of my classmates had left." He ends on a positive, if nostalgic note, promising in vague terms to "make upstate New York great again."

The ad itself is standard fare for a debut, one intended to reintroduce Maffei to area voters who might not remember him from his narrow loss for the seat in 2006. But such a significant investment (it's airing in the Syracuse and Buffalo media markets) so early (the primary isn't for another two months, and neither party's front-runner currently faces serious competition) signals an aggressive approach by Democrats to winning targeted House seats this year.

Economy, House Race, Television Ad

Tuesday, June 3, 2008 12:20 PM

Less than a week after Americans United for Change ran ads (subscription) criticizing four Republican lawmakers for their stance on a proposed expansion of the G.I. Bill, the liberal advocacy group is on the air in four more House districts, this time with a sunnier spot intended to boost freshman Democrats.

"Break" (subscription) debuted yesterday in the local media markets of Texas Reps. Ciro Rodriguez and Nick Lampson -- both of whom lost their seats following the notorious 2003 state redistricting only to win them back in 2006 -- as well as the districts of freshman Democrats Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire and Kirsten Gillibrand in New York. (Campaign finance restrictions prohibit groups like AUC from advertising during the 90 days before a primary election, limiting the potential scope of the organization's ad campaign.)

Continue reading Freshman Dems Get Extra Credit

House Race

Friday, May 9, 2008 4:20 PM

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is going on the offensive against Freedom's Watch, alleging that the conservative group is illegally coordinating with the National Republican Congressional Committee and violating its tax-exempt status.

With Republicans facing a dire situation -- a slew of open congressional seats combined with lackluster fundraising for the NRCC -- Freedom's Watch has stepped in to fill a hole, running negative ads against Democratic candidates Don Cazayoux in Louisiana and Travis Childers in Mississippi.

Ads run against Cazayoux in Louisiana's 6th District special election campaign attempted to tie the candidate to Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, and to portray Cazayoux as a tax-and-spend liberal. (Despite these efforts, Cazayoux won the election last week.)

Continue reading DCCC vs. Freedom's Watch

Barack Obama, House Race, Television Ad

Monday, April 28, 2008 4:30 PM

Barack Obama is becoming a more familiar face for TV viewers in Mississippi and Louisiana, but not by choice; instead, the Illinois senator is the focal point of several new commercials being run by Republican groups ahead of special elections to be held in both states in early May.

Whereas Hillary Rodham Clinton was once considered the Democrat that Republicans would most like to see at the top of the ticket in November, Obama's "bitter" comments and his association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright have helped make him more vulnerable to attack from the right. Now Republicans are using Obama's missteps to target downballot candidates.

In Mississippi's First District, Southaven Mayor Greg Davis (R) is facing off against Democratic businessman Travis Childers in a runoff to replace Rep. Roger Wicker (R), who moved to the Senate after Trent Lott's resignation. While the seat had been considered safe for the GOP, Childers shocked pundits by coming within 400 votes of capturing it in the first round of voting on April 22. Now, the National Republican Congressional Committee and Davis are going on the offense, launching negative ads that link Childers to Obama, John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi.

Continue reading Obama Targeted In Special Elections

Domestic Issues, House Race, Television Ad

Friday, April 4, 2008 11:50 AM

As Louisiana Republicans battle to hold the 1st District seat vacated in January by incoming Gov. Bobby Jindal, the special election primary runoff there has taken a nasty tone on the airwaves going into Saturday's vote.

State Sen. Steve Scalise narrowly missed winning the majority of Republican votes needed to secure the nomination in last month's primary, leading state Rep. Tim Burns 48 percent to 28 percent. But that 20-point margin of victory is in the past, and in recent days both candidates have hurled negative advertisements at each other on issues ranging from crime to the response to Hurricane Katrina.

Continue reading Attack Ads Prompt Court Intervention In Louisiana



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