A Republican commercial casts Wisconsin U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes as a “different” Democrat, pointing out his push to end cash bail. Another shows his face on a wall with his last name sprayed in graffiti-style script and cites a comment he made about reallocating police funds. A third labels him “dangerously liberal on crime.”
The ads are part of a broader strategy of calling out Democrats on crime, an argument they believe will be potent in this year’s midterm elections, reports the Washington Post.
Some allies of Barnes, who would be Wisconsin’s first Black senator, call the attacks racist messages that feed on stereotypes. Barnes has launched spots seeking to assure voters he will fight crime and support law enforcement. Some Democrats fear his response has been ineffective.
Republicans are increasingly centering their pitch to voters on crime, casting Democrats as weak and ineffective buffers against violence.
The GOP is facing accusations from Democrats that they are engaging in a pattern of stoking racial divisions, a charge they reject.
Democrats worry the attacks could resonate amid the rise in violent crime with their party in power at the federal level and in many cities. Some candidates are scrambling to distance themselves from slogans such as “defund the police” that were popular among left-wing activists after a reckoning on racial justice and policing two years ago.
From the Senate battlegrounds of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to key House races, Republicans are ramping up attacks highlighting incidents of deadly violence, sometimes in grisly detail, in ads and speeches.
The rationale for the strategy is apparent in public polling. Republicans have a 22-point advantage on handling crime, with 56 percent of registered voters saying they trust Republicans more while 34 percent say they trust Democrats more on the issue, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
During the first three weeks of September, Republican candidates and allies aired about 53,000 commercials on crime, according to AdImpact, which tracks political spots on network TV. That’s up from the 29,000 crime ads they aired in all of August.
Nearly 50 percent of all Republican online ads in battleground states have focused on policing and safety since the start of the month, says Priorities USA, a group focused on electing Democrats.