Democrats try out a new/old bogeywoman: Sarah Palin

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is out with a new ad Monday tying Iowa GOP Senate hopeful Joni Ernst to Sarah Palin.

The 30-second ad plays audio of Palin praising Ernst and Ernst praising Palin.

Given that Palin is broadly unpopular and highly polarizing, the ad might seem to be much ado about nothing. After all, Palin has been a Democratic foil for years. But national Democrats haven't actually used her much in their advertising campaigns. And, in fact, this is the first TV ad the DSCC has ever run featuring Palin.

The committee did feature Palin in a 2009 Web ad, and SEIU mentioned Palin in an ad against Scott Brown in the 2010 Massachusetts special election. Apart from that, though, Palin hasn't really been used in the same way as George W. Bush, Nancy Pelosi and President Obama — the most oft-used bogeypeople (?) in political ads.

The use of Palin in Iowa certainly makes sense. Ernst touted her Palin endorsement heavily and campaigned with the former Alaska governor while securing the GOP nomination, and there have been plenty of comparisons drawn between their political styles. Much as Palin did in 2008, Ernst has run as a gun-toting mother who can relate to average Americans/Iowans.

The potential downside of those parallels for Ernst, of course, are obvious. A 2013 CNN/Opinion Research poll showed Palin's favorable rating at 34 percent nationally and her unfavorable rating at 58 percent.

But the advertising gambit isn't without risk for Democrats either. We're guessing that Palin retains plenty of supporters in Iowa who might be more motivated as a result of this ad. In addition, there's a reason the anti-Palin ads haven't been used much before; if Democrats were convinced they were effective, we would probably have seen more of them in the six years since Palin's failed 2008 vice presidential candidacy.

If there's one Senate race where such a strategy could get a trial run, though, it's Iowa. In addition to Ernst aligning herself with Palin, Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley has under-performed early expectations and turned the race into a toss-up, so perhaps it's time to try something new.

Update 12:50 p.m.: A helpful Fix reader points to Jay Newton-Small's take on the comparisons between Ernst and Palin. Her verdict: Ernst's record isn't that Palin-esque.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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