Democrats fold Mitt Romney into attack ads in key congressional races

September 27, 2012

Democrats in blue states are beginning to use GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney more in attack ads against Republican congressional candidates. 

In the Hawaii Senate race, Rep. Mazie Hirono (D) launched a spot Wednesday that aims to tie former governor Linda Lingle (R) to Romney by pointing to remarks the GOP Senate nominee delivered at a rally last week.

The ad features a clip of Lingle saying, “You know that I personally am voting for Governor Romney for president.” From there, the narrator of the ad takes a swipe at Romney’s tax plan, which he says will mean “raising taxes on middle class families.”

It was only a matter of time before Hirono ran an ad like this one. President Obama grew up in Hawaii, and he's expected to carry the heavily Democratic state with ease. Lingle has been pitching herself as a moderate in the campaign, and Democrats are working hard to link her to the Republican presidential ticket that is virtually certain to lose in Hawaii. 

Hirono opted to use a small part of Lingle’s stump speech last week. In her remarks, Lingle also said she is not going to Washington to work for Romney or Obama, a sound bite that unsurprisingly did not make it into the Democratic attack ad.

Hirono’s ad is the first Democratic TV spot across the Senate landscape directly focused on Romney. In House races, it’s already been done a couple of times. On Monday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sought to tie Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) to the Republican presidential nominee in a TV spot.

“Chris Gibson and Mitt Romney don't seem to get that everybody pays for their Medicare. They both wanted to end the Medicare guarantee to pay for even more tax breaks for the wealthy,” the narrator of the ad says.

While Obama will easily carry New York, the 19th District where Gibson is running is much more of a swing area. Obama won about 53 percent of the vote there in 2008.

In Rhode Island, Rep. David Cicilline (D) is taking an approach similar to Hirono's. He released an ad that this week the begins with a clip of Republican nominee Brendan Doherty saying he thinks Romney would be “fantastic for Rhode Island.”

Cicilline’s district is safely Democratic at the presidential level. But the former Providence mayor finds himself in a competitive race following the city's discovery of a $110 million budget shortfall.

Obama has played a starring role in Republican attack ads against Democratic congressional candidates all cycle, and GOP campaigns will continue to put him front and center – especially in states he is not expected to win.

Romney hasn't been a regular in congressional campaign ads so far. He is coming off the toughest couple of weeks in the campaign yet, so if there is an opportune moment for congressional Democrats to begin folding him into their attack pattern, it's now.

In at least one case, a Republican used Romney to go on offense in a commercial. In Utah's 4th District race, Republican challenger Mia Love expressed her support for Romney in an ad her campaign ran as the Republican National Convention (where Love spoke) was taking place in Tampa last month.

One Senate race to keep an eye on with regard to Romney-based attacks is the state where he served as governor: Massachusetts. Obama is expected to win the Bay State comfortably, and in a debate last week, Democratic Senate nominee Elizabeth Warren began to link Sen. Scott Brown (R) to Romney. She hasn’t launched a TV ad yet tying Brown to the GOP presidential nominee, but it wouldn’t be surprising if she releases one soon.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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