Having Utterly Failed In Congress, GOP Freshmen Are Now Trying To Deny They're Incumbents
All current polling shows that voters in New Hampshire's first congressional district have changed their minds about freshman congressman Frank Guinta and that they are eager to replace him in November with Carol Shea-Porter. Last month, we saw how Guinta has been trying to persuade low-info voters that he isn't the incumbent but the challenger and that it's Carol who's been in Congress doing the miserable job he's been doing. Guinta took out a batch of ads calling on voters to “retire” and “replace” Carol Shea-Porter. This week, his misleading robo-call to voters says, "Hi, this is Frank Guinta, candidate for Congress, running against Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. I’m running to end the broken culture of Washington…" Sounds like a pretty crackpot strategy. And Guinta, it turns out isn't the one who came up with it. The NRCC did and several of the lamest freshmen in the Republican caucus have been using it. Alex Isenstadt reported the story:
The House Republican freshmen ran for Congress as the ultimate outsiders determined to clean up Washington. But they’ve been here two years now, things are still a mess, and now they want voters to send them back for another two years.
What to do?
The answer, based on their early campaigning: Don’t acknowledge you’re an incumbent. But if you have to, do it with your nose plugged.
As they kick off tough reelection battles, the GOP newbies are taking pains to distance themselves from a Capitol that remains toxic, casting themselves as the same insurgent forces that swept to power in 2010. Far from embracing the Congress that they promised to change, the freshmen are taking an icepick to it.
Case in point: Ohio Rep. Bill Johnson.
In one of his first TV ads, Johnson says that he spent 26 years in the Air Force, yet never mentions he’s one of the “politicians in Washington” he criticizes in the spot. He goes to refer to his Democratic opponent, former Rep. Charlie Wilson, whom Johnson unseated in 2010, as “Congressman Charlie Wilson.” And the ad features an image of a smiling Wilson standing next to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in the Capitol.
Judging from the commercial, one would never know that Wilson ever left the building.
“He’d like people to believe that I’m the incumbent and he’s the challenger,” Wilson said in an interview.
...Republican officials and strategists tasked with preserving the House GOP majority say the anti-Washington tack is designed to address a central conundrum facing the historic 87-member freshmen class facing its first reelection: How to convince voters it deserves a second shot.
“In reality they came here because they were upset with Washington and so were their constituents and they wanted to change Washington,” said Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, vice chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “They’re still in the fight and they want to change what’s happening here and it’s hard. Big change happens over a couple of cycles, not one.”
Walden said Republicans would work to remind voters that, while Republicans held the House, Democrats were still to blame for much of what ills Washington. The opposing party, he pointed out, still controls the Senate and White House.
But some of the first-termers are going to great lengths to distance themselves from their current employer. One strategy: Talk about past jobs.
GOP Rep. Dan Benishek of Michigan dons his old surgical gear and a stethoscope in a new TV ad, noting that “people don’t trust politicians” but not mentioning he is one.
...Democrats argue the GOP pitches amount to deception and say they’re determined not to let the incumbents get away with it. In recent months, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has hammered away at the freshmen for supporting congressional privileges like a taxpayer-funded gym and beauty salon.
“Facing record low public opinion, it’s no surprise that these vulnerable Republicans don’t admit that they are part of this Republican Congress,” DCCC Chairman Steve Israel wrote in an email. “Voters know if you break it, you own it, and tea party House Republicans came to Washington saying they would solve problems, but now, they are the problem.”
...Republican strategists pointed out that the ads are hitting the airwaves at an unusually early point in the election year-- well before Labor Day, when general election-themed spots typically begin airing.
It’s an attempt by the freshmen to inoculate themselves from the oncoming Democratic barrage by defining themselves as outsiders before Democrats paint them as insiders.
“You build a little shield around yourself. You define yourself, and if you’re a new member, you’re building an understanding with your voters about who you are,” Walden said. “This is a really important time to get out there and say why you’re running and what your views are.”
Brad Todd, a veteran media consultant and top adviser to the National Republican Congressional Committee, said it wasn’t unexpected to see so many of the freshmen embracing a similar message. Many, he said, recognize they were each elected as part of the same backlash against the ambitious national Democratic agenda President Barack Obama pursued during his first two years in office.
Voter anger at Washington may have subsided some since then but not much. And now, the freshmen are on the inside looking out.
“It’s very important for freshman to remind their constituents that they have not forgotten the mission they were sent on. That’s the job of every freshman who won in a wave election,” Todd said. “Wave elections produce people who were elected on a mandate, and if voters suspect they are not honoring that mandate, then you will be
Blue America included Guinta and 3 other dishonest Republican freshman in a facebook ad campaign that was viewed by over 3.6 million people between the ages of 18 and 26. It highlights their desire to kick 18-26 year olds off their parents' health insurance policies. Guinta and fellow New Hampshire radical Charlie Bass share a Facebook page... and are the targets of a new ActBlue page to boot.