By Billy Davis
In a close congressional race for a U.S. House seat, Republicans gambled on a strategy: air TV ads that tie the Democrat to liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and presidential candidate Senator Barrack Obama.
One TV ad suggests that the national Democratic Party supports a “radical agenda” of “more government, more taxes, less freedom.”
The message? Supporting the Democrat, even a self-proclaimed conservative, means supporting the liberal leadership in the House.
If that theme sounds familiar, it’s because the National Republican Congressional Committee is airing TV ads in Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District that tie Democrat Travis Childers to Obama and Pelosi, a liberal Democrat from San Francisco.
But the “radical agenda” ad didn’t air in Mississippi’s 1st District; it aired in Louisiana’s 6th District, site of a heated race for a seat Republicans have held since 1975. In that race, Democrat Don Cazayoux defeated Republican Woody Jenkins, bumping the Democrats’ majority in the U.S. House to 235-198.
Last Saturday’s loss in Louisiana has caused national Republicans to worry about next Tuesday’s 1st District election. A story Wednesday on Web site Politico.com described the GOP in full-panic mode, and former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich is warning the GOP to stop the negative advertising.
Following the 6th District defeat, the anti-Obama advertising has been “tested with disastrous results,” Gingrich wrote.
In Mississippi, any second-guessing may come too late. Living rooms across the 1st District have been swamped with negative TV ads from both Childers and his Republican opponent, Greg Davis, including ads similar to those that aired in Louisiana. One ad aired by the Davis campaign mentions Obama’s controversial ex-pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
But Davis defended the strategy in a phone interview this week with The Panolian. The intent of the TV ads is to show voters the marching orders Childers will follow in the U.S. House, he said. Childers’ campaign has accepted a $6,000 contribution directly from Pelosi and $13,000 from her political action committee, he alleged.
“You can’t go all over the 1st District and tell voters you’re conservative, and then take money from Nancy Pelosi. That’s what we’re saying,” said Davis, who has also said that Childers donated $2,000 in 2004 to Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president.
Davis’ campaign has also hit Childers for enjoying support from Obama while denying publicly that the 1st District Democratic nominee has been endorsed by the Democrat.
“Senator Obama hasn’t endorsed my campaign,” Childers says in a TV news interview that is now getting plenty of airplay on Mississippi talk radio and youtube.com.
But the Davis campaign shot back with an e-mailed letter from Obama’s campaign that asks voters to “give Travis the boost he needs to finish strong and show that our movement is dedicated to change up and down the ballot.”
To further press its charge, the Davis campaign also produced a still shot from Obama’s campaign Web site that asks volunteers to campaign on behalf of Childers.
“I don’t think there’s any difference between endorsing somebody and supporting them,” Davis said, referring to Childers’ no-endorsement statement.
Childers did not respond to a repeated request for an interview.