Dogcatchers For Bombing IS Back to the Stone Age

Us high-information political junkies tend to hate it, but the fact is low-information voters don’t think a lot about which level of government has jurisdiction over what. So cynical state and local pols are prone to the practice of “nationalizing” their contests (if they think it would do them any good) by campaigning on issues the jobs they are running for have absolutely nothing to do with.

It’s a ploy used by both parties. A famous Democratic example was the late Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles’ 1994 re-election campaign against Jeb Bush, in which national Republican threats to cut Medicare were imported into a state campaign via an anti-Medicare pronouncement by Bush’s running mate; state governments, of course, have no control over the program (Chiles’ punishment for this elaborate non-sequitur was the ignominy of having paved the way for the presidential ambitions of Jeb’s older brother).

But this year, unsurprisingly, it’s Republicans wanting to campaign on the national stuff, as explained by Ben Wieder of the Center for Public Integrity in a column at the Daily Beast:

The president or his signature health care law have been mentioned in more than 1 out of every 10 television ads that have aired about elections for state-level political office so far in the run-up to Nov. 4, according to the latest Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from media tracking service Kantar Media/CMAG….

While it’s not unusual for the president to be invoked in federal races, the focus on Obama at the state level is comparatively novel, according to Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. He attributes it, in part, to a growing partisan split among voters.

“In a lot of these campaigns, the strategies are nationalized because parties think there are fewer voters that are willing to split their tickets,” Kondik said.

For state-level races ranging from governor to state board of education, ads have run more than 100,000 times that invoked the country’s chief executive or his policies, mostly in a negative light.

While campaigning against Obamacare at the state level isn’t that surprising, I do wonder if the late trend of GOP congressional candidates campaigning on terror-freakout themes is spreading. If some dogcatcher was running on a platform borrowed from Ted Cruz on “bombing ISIS back into the stone age,” the only thing about it that would surprise me is that the candidate had the money to let it be known.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.