While Republicans are set to have a good night on November 4, at least one Republican officeholder is almost certainly not. In Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) is facing a struggle in his reelection effort and is one of only a handful of Republicans consistently named as among the more embattled GOP incumbents.
“Privately, both Democrats and Republicans acknowledge Terry is down in polls to his Democratic challenger, state Sen. Brad Ashford,” Roll Call reported. Ashford recently received the endorsement of the Omaha World-Herald, and appears to have the political wind at his back.
In what could only be considered a Hail Mary play, the National Republican Congressional Committee released an ad in support of Lee which nearly mirrors the themes in the infamous 1988 “Willie Horton ad.” It has set the center-left political blogosphere on fire.
The ad seeks to link Ashford to Nebraska’s “good time” law, which he supported, and attempts to link the Democratic state senator to a person convicted of multiple murderers who was released from prison after serving only half of his sentence.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called it “race-baiting” and political publications with editorial outlooks ranging from Salon to Roll Call have drawn the obvious comparison between this ad and “Willie Horton.”
Why this ad is “race-baiting,” save for the fact that he subject of the ad is black, is anyone’s guess. It is, however, clearly an unconvincing attack on Ashford’s credibility; the ad does not make the case for why it was wrong to release the convicted felon, Nikko Jenkins, early. His release may have been perfectly justifiable.
It is not merely Democrats who are lambasting this advertisement. The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent quotes Republican strategist Rick Wilson who tore into the ad:
“Any idiot can use too much hot sauce — this is too much hot sauce,” GOP strategist Rick Wilson, who has been known to craft some very negative ads in his time, told me. “This is not as consequential in the long term as all that, but it’s a data point that people are going to throw back in your face to say, ‘You guys are using the scariest possible images in these ads.’”
“If we were smarter, we would be talking to African Americans about reforming the criminal justice system,” Wilson continued. “But I don’t think this ad is a step in that direction. African Americans actually do respond to messages about crime. This is a lost opportunity.”
I genuinely do not see where this is a race-baiting ad, unless the presumption is that African-Americans will instinctively identify with any member of their race including convicted murderers. That is not an assumption I share. The ad is, however, an unfair and unfounded attack on Terry’s opponent, and it is only going to hurt his already dubious reelection prospects.