What’s With the ‘I’m Not a Racist’ Ads in Ohio’s Republican Senate Primary?

Well the Doc opened up the old mailbag today and here’s what poured out.

Dear Dr. Ads,

There I was the other day, minding my own business and reading Politico’s Playbook PM, when I came across this item.

AD WARS — In the Ohio GOP Senate primary, one of the leading issues is fighting against being called “racist.” That’s the takeaway from two new ads released by JOSH MANDEL and J.D. VANCE, who both take umbrage at the criticism, as NBC’s Henry Gomez notes. Mandel shot his ad from the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., invoking Rev. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., while Vance linked his own views on the border to his family’s experience with addiction.

Here’s the first tweet Gomez posted, about Vance’s ad.

And here’s the follow-up about Mandel’s ad.

What’s next, Doc – candidates saying “I’m not a Martian” in their ads?

– Buckeye Bill

Dear Buckeye,

Well for one thing, no one has yet accused Mandel and Vance of being a Martian, although both of them do seem like they’re from another planet. But that’s beside the point. The point actually is that each of them has been called a racist, which is what triggered these ads.

Let’s start with Mandel’s spot, which is titled Equality and begins with an Ohio woman saying “critical race theory is crap.”

The first kerfuffle generated by the ad came from the King family, which basically told Mandel to keep Martin’s name out of his mouth. The second kerfuffle was occasioned by this image from the spot.

The immediate reaction went something like this: Did Josh Mandel edit his face onto a Black Marine in his new U.S. Senate ad? As Haley BeMiller reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer, the answer is no.

The ad shows several photos of Mandel during his time in Iraq, including one of him and a group of Black Marines. In that image, Mandel’s hands appear darker than the rest of his skin, prompting allegations on social media that the campaign edited his face onto a different body.

Mandel’s campaign disputed the claims and provided a copy of the original photo to USA TODAY Network Ohio, which shows his hand and skin tone matching . . .

A photo editor for USA TODAY Network Ohio examined a copy of the original photo and said it did not readily appear to be digitally altered.

So that’s one good thing you can say about Josh Mandel. Maybe the only good thing, but let’s not get technical about it.

Then there’s JD Vance, celebrated author of the bestselling Hillbilly Elegy (interesting book, awful movie), who morphed from a Trump critic in 2016 to a full-fledged MAGAt for the purposes of this campaign.

Here’s Vance’s current TV spot.

And here’s Vance’s current problem, as detailed by Fidel Martinez in the Los Angeles Times.

“Five years ago, Vance was eloquently decoding Donald Trump supporters for liberal elites, while lamenting the rise of Trump himself,” wrote Simon van Zuylen-Wood in a January profile published in the Washington Post Magazine.

Now Vance is running for Senate in Ohio, a state the former president comfortably won in 2016 and 2020, and has desperately tried to walk back his past criticism of Trump.

“Look, I mean, all of us say stupid things and I happened to say stupid things very publicly,” he said at a debate in March.

Vance hasn’t just apologized. He has gone full Trump.

Full Trump, of course, entails never telling the truth when a lie better suits your purposes. “This issue is personal,” Vance says in the spot. “I nearly lost my mother to the poison coming across our border.”

But, as Martinez notes, “it’s worth pointing out that Vance famously recounts in his memoir that his mom would steal her patients’ painkillers while working as a nurse. But sure, let’s blame it on the Mexicans.”

Right. All the kids are doing it.

The Doc’s diagnosis: This campaign will turn out to be JD Vance’s Hillbilly Eulogy.

One comment on “What’s With the ‘I’m Not a Racist’ Ads in Ohio’s Republican Senate Primary?

  1. […] those of you keeping score at home, both Vance and Mandel have felt compelled to run ads proclaiming “I’m not a racist,” which pretty much speaks for itself. A third […]

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