A Democratic candidate for Senate in Arkansas explained to Business Insider the strategy behind his use of Donald Trump to attack his opponent — one that follows a blueprint down-ballot Democrats across the country could use this election cycle.
Conner Eldridge, a former US attorney who is running against incumbent Republican Sen. John Boozman in Arkansas, released a pair of ads over the past week that have targeted his opponent by playing a series of Trump statements.
The first ad, released last Monday, featured a full minute of the Manhattan billionaire’s litany of crude past remarks toward women. That was before it even introduced Eldridge’s opponent.
Subsequently, Boozman was depicted in the nearly two-minute video for a total of 15 seconds. But he was labelled as a “Trump enabler.”
The video, which gained widespread attention in the political sphere, included a clip of Boozman saying, “I’ll support the candidate regardless of who we pick … whether Donald Trump … it would certainly be a lot better presidency.”
The second ad, released Tuesday, contained a 90-second cut of Trump’s comments on foreign policy and women, among other topics, before playing that same soundbite of Boozman.
Eldridge, facing a tough uphill battle against a relatively popular incumbent, said all he needed to prove the his point that Boozman “sits idly by” was to use “words straight from Donald Trump’s mouth” that the senator refused to condemn.
“Those are words straight from Donald Trump’s mouth, and those are words straight from Sen. Boozman’s mouth,” he told Business Insider. “He was certainly aware of all those comments when he said, ‘I will support Donald Trump as the nominee.'”
Eldridge said the words “speak for themselves.”
“Donald Trump certainly said all of those things and Boozman had said I will support him and made no further comment while many Republicans have said they condemned Donald Trump’s remarks,” Eldridge said. “Apparently Sen. Boozman does not think it’s important to do so.”
Other Democrats and Democratic-leaning organisations have already started to tie Trump to Republican Senate candidates. Back in February, Ann Kirkpatrick, who is running against Sen. John McCain in Arizona, released an ad that included a compilation of outlandish statements from Trump contrasted with McCain saying he would support Trump as the nominee.
In the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire, meanwhile, incumbent Republicans have faced a barrage of attacks related to Trump and their stated (if tepid) support for the presumptive GOP nominee.
One of those three Republicans, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, looked to rebuff those attacks by further distancing himself from Trump in recent days.
In a statement, Boozman’s campaign called the move “the act of a desperate campaign.” Multiple politics-ratings agencies have indeed cast the Eldridge-Boozman race as one reliably in the Republican column.
“Our opponent should be more focused with his very real ties to his former boss President Obama and his failed policies,” Chris Caldwell, Boozman’s campaign manager, told Business Insider in an email.
But for Eldridge, all he has to work with is one comment: Boozman’s lukewarm acknowledgement of support for his party’s standard-bearer. But he thinks it’s all he probably needs.
“He has made no other comment,” Eldridge said. “Many other Republicans, his peers in the Senate, his peers at the state and federal levels, have condemned these harassing, hateful comments that Trump has made about women and other comments. John Boozman has not done that.”
He added: “John Boozman sits idly by, and that’s not good enough.”
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