Democrats are doubling down on their campaign trying to turn House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) into political villain in advance of next year's midterm election, using themes that could hurt his image with staunch conservatives in addition to liberal activists.
House Majority PAC, a super PAC affiliated with the leadership team of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), is launching the new round of digital ads throughout the country highlighting the health-care fight. Additionally, the group is trying to brand Ryan with an elitist tag, through a new website that it is launching called "Fancy Paul Ryan."
"From health care to our economy, Ryan doesn't look out for his constituents, instead he does the bidding of the wealthy and special interests," the site says on its home page.
This comes a day after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began running national cable TV ads disparaging the speaker for being part of the Washington establishment looking out for the wealthy.
"Paul Ryan and the Washington Republicans, it's the same thing every time," the narrator says.
The campaign comes as Ryan's image has cratered in the era of President Trump, giving Democrats an opening to potentially use the speaker in the same fashion that Republicans have used Pelosi for the past seven years. According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll late last month, just 31 percent of Americans approve of the job Ryan is doing, while 51 percent disapprove.
The Democratic groups seem aware that Ryan's declining popularity comes from conservatives who are disappointed that Trump's agenda has stalled in the Capitol and have seen the president occasionally take out his frustration on Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Their TV ads and digital themes are carefully drawn in ways that will energize liberal activists and also irritate Trump voters. Ryan is portrayed as part of the firmament of Washington, a place that Trump voters have essentially declared that they want disrupted.
In labeling Ryan "fancy," House Majority PAC is taking aim at both supporters of Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), accusing him of putting "millionaires and billionaires ahead of hard-working Wisconsinites."
Back in 2006, during the heated U.S. Senate race in Tennessee, Republicans disparaged Democrat Harold E. Ford Jr. with a "Fancy Ford" website, branding him an elitist who hung out with celebrities. Ford narrowly lost to Sen. Bob Corker (R) that year.
If these ads are successful at further undermining Ryan's image, Democrats expect to use the speaker in their campaigns next year much more directly tying specific Republicans to the unpopular leader.
For now, that's not yet happening.
The DCCC began a round of radio ads this week in 11 Republican districts that are individually tailored to those GOP lawmakers, each of whom voted for Ryan's version of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act in the spring.
Ryan is not mentioned in those radio ads, but that could change by early next year.