Each election year, politicians spend more and more money on television advertising — and the issues they focus on reveal a lot about their priorities. Here, senior elections analyst Nathaniel Rakich explores what Republicans’ TV ads say about their midterms strategy.
Nathaniel Rakich: Every two years, you probably get sick of political ads. But to be honest, I can’t get enough of them. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve watched hundreds of campaign ads just for fun. And I’m here to tell you: They’re actually super interesting. And watching all those ads gave me a good sense of what each party’s strategy is in the 2022 midterms.
In my previous video, I looked at what arguments Democrats have been making in their TV ads this year. Republicans, now it’s your turn.
All year long, Americans have told pollsters that inflation is the most important issue facing the country. And according to a recent survey from NBC News, registered voters trust Republicans more than Democrats to deal with the economy, by an almost 20-percentage-point margin. It’s no surprise, then, that Republicans have aired a ton of campaign ads on the issue. Through the end of August, they had spent around $66 million on TV ads about inflation, according to data firm AdImpact.
Rep. Nancy Mace in Mace ad in South Carolina’s 1st District: I’m Nancy Mace, and I have had it with crazy inflation. Just think about the cost of breakfast today.
Rakich: And in July, after gas prices spiked, almost one-sixth of all GOP ads mentioned them specifically.
Rep. Ken Calvert in Calvert ad in California’s 41st District: Filling up at the pump takes a bite out of your wallet. I’m Ken Calvert. Every time we get gas or check out at the grocery store, we feel the pain of “Bidenflation.”
Rakich: Several Republican ads have tied high inflation to the COVID-19 stimulus bill that Biden passed early in his presidency. Check out this commercial from One Nation in Georgia.
Narrator: Sen. Raphael Warnock voted for President Biden’s $2 trillion spending spree, wasting COVID relief money on frivolous projects.
Rakich: But since the summer, gas prices have decreased and inflation has started to stabilize, taking away some of the bite from these ads. So the GOP has moved on to another issue that’s strong for them: crime, which voters told NBC News that Republicans were better equipped to handle than Democrats.
By early September, Republicans were spending the same amount of money on crime-related TV ads as on inflation-related TV ads, and the word “crime” was being mentioned in almost 30 percent of their ads.
A common claim in Republican ads is that Democrats want to “defund the police” — which makes sense as a line of attack given that only 31 percent of Americans supported redirecting police-department funding to social services in a poll taken earlier this year.
Narrator in Rep. Andrew Garbarino ad in New York’s 2nd District: This is what you get with the “defund the police” Democrats. Joe Biden, Pelosi, Kathy Hochul — their woke agenda means more violent crime, less resources for law enforcement. And Jackie Gordon’s another vote for the Democrats’ radical woke agenda.
Rakich: If you watch as many ads as I do, you also see a lot of Republican ads saying how much Democrats vote with Pelosi or President Biden, whose approval rating is mired in the low 40s. In fact, since congressional voting records are one of the things we measure here at FiveThirtyEight, they’ve made us kind of famous. Roll tape! [starts eating popcorn]
Narrator in Senate Leadership Fund ad for New Hampshire Senate: Hassan votes with Joe Biden over 96 percent of the time.
Narrator in American Policy Fund ad for Colorado Senate: Bennet’s voted with Biden 98 percent of the time.
Narrator in National Republican Congressional Committee ad in Michigan’s 7th District: Elissa Slotkin voted Biden’s party line 100 percent of the time.
J.D. Vance in Vance ad for Ohio Senate: D.C. Tim Ryan votes with Biden and Pelosi 100 percent.
Narrator in NRCC ad in Arizona’s 2nd District: Tom O’Halleran: 100 percent with Biden.
Rakich: But this one’s my favorite.
Singers in Amanda Adkins ad in Kansas’s 3rd District: Sharice Davids. What’s she hidin’? Sharice Davids. She’s hidin’ Biden! Inflation, taxation. All your frustrations. Sharice Davids, sidin’ with Biden. Student loan manipulation. Cost of living escalation. Sharice Davids, sidin’ with Biden. Economic devastation. The wrong track for our nation. So when you’re votin’, don’t forget what she’s promotin’. Sharice Davids …
Rakich: Oh, you’re back. That’s the last campaign ad I have for you today, but we’ll keep sharing them with more videos like this one — at least until you get sick of them.
Info on chart: The chart showing Americans support of reducing police funding comes from a poll of 1,000 Americans conducted by University of Massachusetts Amherst/WCVB between May 5-9, 2022.