Can attacks pay off for the GOP?

Nancy Pelosi isn’t on any New Jersey ballots, but the Speaker of the House, the veteran California Democrat, appears to be popping up all over the Garden State – in ads launched by Republican candidates for Congress.

Trying to scare suburban voters with the image of liberal Pelosi has been a tried and true tactic for several cycles.

“Nancy Pelosi is a very effective specter for Republicans to invoke because she is widely unpopular,” said Jacob Rubashkin, who tracks House and Senate campaigns for internal elections in Washington, DC. “She’s one of the most unpopular Democrats. She’s more unpopular than (President) Biden.”

But that observation underscores an irony that has emerged in recent weeks: The midterm elections are meant to be a referendum on the president’s first two years in office. President Joe Biden’s low endorsement tally appeared to bolster analysts’ predictions that Democrats faced a grim record in the fall. Republicans were to take control of the House, most analysts predicted.

But over the past month, Biden’s approval numbers have improved markedly. He is still unpopular with more than half of voters, but the rise has given Democrats hope of retaining power in November.

Attacking the rebounding Biden may not be in the best interest of the GOP. Pelosi gives them a ready substitute.

Rotten tomatoes?

Title: “Rotten”

Time: 30 seconds

Country: Republican candidate Tom Kean Jr. for the 7th Congressional District, which includes parts of Somerset, Essex, Union, Morris, Warren counties and all of Hunterdon County.

Text: “Growing tomatoes – sometimes you have to throw a rotten one away. It’s like politicians. Take Tom Malinowski – votes for billions, higher taxes, whatever Pelosi says.

“Now we all pay more. It sucks.

“And then there’s Tom Kean Jr., who has always fought for less spending and less taxes to make New Jersey a better place.

“So if we want change, it’s pretty simple. We have to throw out the rotten and send Tom Kean Jr. to Congress.”

Analysis: The rotten tomato clutched by ad star Justin Carlisi, a Hunterdon County farmer and restaurateur, morphs into what appears to be a diseased heart placed on an operating theater table. Appearing on the sides of the tomato, or the ventricles, if you will, are dark images of Democrat Tom Malinowski – the two-term incumbent who takes on Kean in a rematch of their 2020 race, in which Malinowski edged out Kean by 1 percentage point — and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a frequent bogeyman of Republican candidates across the country.

The ad’s assertion — that Malinowski is “voting for billions, higher taxes, whatever Pelosi says” — is a major mantra for Kean’s campaign. But it should be noted that the “billions” for which Malinowski voted included loans from the Paycheck Protection Program that were included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, signed by the then-President Donald Trump in an effort to support the economy during the early stages of the pandemic in 2020.

Carlisi received a small PPP loan of $12,037, according to Additionally, Greener By Design, a New Brunswick-based environmental consulting firm that Kean co-owns, also received $260,781 in PPP loans, records show. In an earlier ad, Kean took aim at some of the eye-popping subsidies for golf courses and luxury hotels doled out as part of Biden’s $1.9 billion US bailout, but this latest ad doesn’t make such a big deal. distinction.

More Charles Stile:NJ GOP candidates are trying to change the subject on abortion. The party won’t let them

A mosh pit of Democratic excess?

Title: “Crazy’s house”

Time: 30 seconds

Country: Bob Healey, Republican candidate for the 3rd Congressional District, which includes most of Burlington County and parts of Mercer and Monmouth counties.

Text: “Washington is a madhouse. Politicians are dancing to insane tunes, giving us skyrocketing gas prices, crippling grocery bills, and making it harder to get by.

“Although my mosh pit days are behind me, I still know how to nudge and get things done. By cutting spending to fight inflation, increasing energy production to bring prices down gasoline, supporting the cops and cracking down on crime.

“Enough of this craziness. We need to change. I’m Bob Healey and I approve of this message.”

Analysis: The ad is set in a seedy punk rock bar, featuring a band pounding a monotonous three-chord beat, whose drummer bears a slight resemblance to Pelosi and the lead singer on guitar – in a familiar pair of aviator sunglasses – is a replacement for Biden. A group of aging white men in suits, hanging aimlessly on the dance floor, appear to represent Washington insiders mesmerized by the steady pace of Biden-era government spending.

The setting and Healey’s mention of his “mosh pit” days are a nod to his days as a member of “The Ghouls”, a Philadelphia-area punk rock band. It’s a sly, almost self-deprecating way to defuse any unease voters might have — especially social conservatives within the Republican base — with a former performer of a brand of hardcore, anti-social music. a family-owned yacht-building company in Ocean County, whose campaign is aided by a superPAC funded earlier this year through a $2 million donation from her mother, seeks to turn that past into an asset.

The ad follows the familiar message of the Republican Party attacking the Biden-Pelosi Democrats for rising inflation and crime rates. And like the many other Republican candidates, Healey offered few plans or promises to tackle these issues other than full-scale campaign slogans.

Analysis:We’ve analyzed the ads you’ll see ahead of NJ’s fall election. Here’s what they say

Earlier:NJ midterm announcements: GOP clings to inflation attacks as Democrats point finger at Trump extremism

Fly above the fray?

Title: “Assignment”

Time: 30 seconds

Country: Representative Mikie Sherrill, Democratic incumbent of the 11th congressional district, a district centered on Morris County that includes parts of Passaic, Essex and Sussex counties.

Text: “My grandfather flew B-24 bombers in World War II; he even survived the shoot-down.

“I’m Mikie Sherrill. Growing up I wanted the same sense of mission, to serve something bigger than myself. I graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis and flew helicopters from the Marine.

“Now in Congress, putting country before party is my mission, working with everyone to lower your taxes, your everyday expenses, because my mission is to serve you. And that’s why I endorsed this message.”

Analysis: Sherrill pulls her old navy helicopter out of mothballs in this sequel to a 2017 ad in which she showcased her resume as a naval academy graduate and pilot. (No mention – so far – of his career as a federal prosecutor). The 2017 ads, which garnered national attention, featured Sherrill piloting a helicopter over North Jersey, where she proclaimed her pilot experience had helped “give her perspective”.

The revival of the Navy pilot’s theme is a new metaphor — one that now casts Sherrill as a seasoned bipartisan congresswoman who rises above Washington’s partisan warfare, putting country above party. Sherrill avoids mentioning the explosive issues that have raised the Democratic base – abortion and MAGA extremism, for example – and offers a general nod to day-to-day issues, like taxes and inflation that remain major concerns for voters, say the polls. Yet in another ad that first aired last week, Sherrill took another approach and launched a negative attack on Republican challenger Paul DeGroot’s stance on abortion.

Charlie Stile is a seasoned political columnist. For unlimited access to his unique knowledge of New Jersey’s political power structure and powerful surveillance work, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

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Twitter: @politicstile

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