- Special counsel Robert Mueller is largely a non-issue in Republican and Democratic campaigns during the 2018 midterm election cycle.
- The issue is not a high priority among voters, compared to topics like healthcare and the economy.
- Several Democratic lawmakers are using Mueller themes in Facebook advertising, but few are actually up for reelection in 2018.
WASHINGTON – Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who is currently heading the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, is strikingly absent from most campaign advertising and rhetoric, despite presiding over one of the most pressing issues among Democrats and Republicans when they are back on Capitol Hill.
Few elected officials are using Mueller’s name and investigation in Facebook advertising, according to the social media giant’s own ad archive.
Sens. Cory Booker, Ed Markey, Gary Peters and Jeff Merkley, all Democrats, are running a large amount of Facebook ads mentioning Mueller and a desire to protect the independence of his special counsel investigation. None of the senators running Mueller-themed ads are up for reelection this year, however.
Several Democratic senators, including 2020 presidential contenders Booker, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand had been running Mueller Facebook ads until recently.
Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island is the only candidate running in the 2018 cycle with currently active Facebook ads mentioning Mueller. In addition, the House Majority PAC, an outside group aligned with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, is currently running Facebook ads with language containing Mueller and the special counsel.
Out on the campaign trail, Mueller as a theme is even more scarce.
Most Democratic candidates are trying to anchor their campaign messaging around topics like healthcare and economic issues. For Republicans, Mueller is entirely absent, with their preferred issues centering on topics such as immigration.
The special counsel investigation is not a high priority for voters
The reality, according to one Republican operative, is that most average American voters that campaigns are looking to court do not particularly care about the investigation that has consumed Washington for the past year and a half.
“I think you’d be really surprised as how little of what we get caught up in actually registers with these voters in these states and the numbers,” the GOP operative, who requested anonymity to talk about internal deliberations, told Business Insider.
The operative noted that broader themes like the economy or localised issues are more effective targets.
“The things we generally find that resonate with voters are not like 24-hour issues,” the operative said.
For Democrats, too, one campaign operative described the Mueller probe as “distracting” from issues that voters actually care about. The status of a secretive investigation involving a large set of government figures is “not a primary concern” among average families, they added.
And the idea that voters care more about kitchen table issues is reflected in polling as well. An October poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that most voters placed health care as “very important” with a quarter of respondents calling it the “most important” issue.
Most issues in the poll received similar responses from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. One exception was with immigration, which showed a significant spike among Republicans, who 31% called their “most important” issue, compared to just 9% of Democrats and 15% of Independents.