Republican candidates across the U.S. are hammering on fears of crime in the final month of midterm election campaigns, with the crime theme dominating advertising in some of the most competitive races for Senate, House and governor seats, the Associated Press reports. The rhetoric is sometimes alarmist or of questionable veracity, closely echoing the language of former President Donald Trump, who honed a late-stage argument during the 2020 campaign that Democratic-led cities were out of control. But the strategy clearly targets a perceived weakness for Democrats. “When violence is going up, people are concerned, and that’s when we tend to see it gain some traction as a political issue,” said Lisa L. Miller, professor of political science at Rutgers University, who focuses on crime as a political issue in countries across the world.
In New York, Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican challenging Gov. Kathy Hochul, aired a commercial featuring surveillance video of a man on a sidewalk suddenly punching someone in the head, knocking them to the ground. With muted screams and gunshots in the background, the video stitches together other surveillance clips of shootings and punching on streets and subway trains as a voiceover says, “You’re looking at actual violent crimes caught on camera in Kathy Hochul’s New York" — except some of the clips showed an assault in California or crimes that took place before Hochul took office last year. While acknowledging a mistake, Zeldin’s campaign defended the ad and said the message was clear: violent crime is out of control. Some GOP candidates are trying to make their case in communities of color. In Pennsylvania, the Republican nominee for Senate, heart surgeon-turned-TV talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz, has toured the state holding “safe streets” forums in Black communities. Asked by a reporter about his focus on crime, Oz pointed to a conversation he had with Black Republican ward leaders in Philadelphia that turned from economic issues to struggling Black-owned businesses. “The African Americans in the group said, ’Well, the deep problem is ... people don’t feel safe,” Oz said in an interview.