In the Arkansas Senate race, the federal government shutdown — now in its eighth day — has become a focal point, with Sen. Mark Pryor (D) and Rep. Tom Cotton (R) releasing TV ads related to it in recent days.
The commercials are notable because they (1) illustrate ways both parties believe they can cast blame on the other side in a key Senate race and (2) reflect the resonance of the shutdown beyond Washington.
First came an ad from Cotton. The 30-second commercial, the first of his campaign, dinged Pryor for voting for President Obama's health-care law and against a House GOP bill that would have stripped health-care subsidies for lawmakers.
"What's good for the goose ought to be good for the gander. But not in Washington," says the narrator of the spot.
What the ad does not mention is that the vote on subsidies was tied to funding the government. Democrats have blamed House Republicans' refusal to pass a "clean" stopgap spending bill to fund the government for triggering the shutdown.
Pryor released an ad Tuesday that directly responds to Cotton's spot and asks, "When Congress was debating whether to shut down the government, where was Tom?" A woman responds, "Down in Houston raising big bucks from Texas fat-cats."
Again, the details are not fully spelled out in the spot. The ad is a reference to a report that Cotton missed two votes "on noncontroversial issues" days before the shutdown.
Cotton's ad is a probable template for GOP attack ads against other Democratic senators running in red states where Obamacare is unpopular. Pryor's ad, meanwhile, is part of a broader effort from Democrats to cast Cotton as more concerned about politics than governing.
With seven in 10 Americans seeing the shutdown as a "crisis" or a "major problem" in a recent Gallup poll, it's clear that Americans well beyond the Beltway are taking notice. So are campaigns, as evidenced by the Arkansas ads.