Republicans are hoping a time-tested trick will help them prevail in Georgia’s sixth congressional district — linking a Democratic candidate to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
As television ads blanket the Atlanta media market in the lead-up to Tuesday’s historically expensive special election to replace Department of Health and Human Services Director Tom Price, Republicans have hardly missed a chance to link Democrat Jon Ossoff to the California leader.
“Every morning I wake up and I take a moment to be thankful that the Republican Party still has Nancy Pelosi because Nancy Pelosi is absolutely toxic,” Corry Bliss, executive director of the Congressional Leadership Fund told the Washington Times. “This race is a referendum on Nancy Pelosi and her liberal policy agenda, which is just fundamentally out of touch with a vast majority of Americans, as we saw that in Montana.”
In a district that has traditionally backed Republican candidates, but went for Hillary Clinton by a slight margin in 2016, Democrats are hoping to win over voters who vote reliably Republican, but remain sceptical of President Donald Trump.
But Republicans are fighting hard to keep the congressional seat, using Pelosi as a tool to turn off voters who might swing toward Ossoff.
The Congressional Leadership Fund paid for a car to drive around in the district with Ossoff and Pelosi’s faces and a sign that read “San Francisco <3 Jon Ossoff.” The Times also noted that Pelosi is a regular feature in ads and on campaign flyers for the special election.
And Karen Handel, Ossoff’s Republican opponent in the election, rarely misses a chance to link him to Pelosi in speeches and appearances.
“Republicans sure don’t want Nancy Pelosi’s guy coming in to try and buy this seat,” Handel told Fox News on Tuesday.
Republicans in congressional races for years have made linking Democratic candidates to the House minority leader a major campaign strategy, and Pelosi remains broadly unpopular in Georgia’s traditionally Republican-leaning sixth congressional district. According to a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll, 58% of likely voters in the district hold an unfavorable view of Pelosi.
For her part, Pelosi has has argued that ads highlighting her leadership aren’t likely to be effective considering House Speaker Paul Ryan’s own abysmal approval ratings.
“When Republicans put forth these ads, it shows the bankruptcy of their own initiatives,” Pelosi told NBC News in April. “The voters in their districts want to know what they are going to do for them.”
The minority leader has kept her distance from the campaign. She hosted a fundraiser for Ossoff in Washington, DC, but has avoided campaigning for him in the Georgia district.
For his part, Ossoff said he hasn’t thought about whether he will fully support Pelosi’s agenda in Washington if elected.
“The campaign is about who’s going to deliver results for home, not palace intrigue in Washington,” Ossoff said. “I don’t think the attack ads are having much effect.”
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