So How Did the Democrats Do With Those ‘Sabotage Ads’ Touting GOP Crazies?

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

Dear Dr. Ads,

A couple of weeks ago you wrote about the trend by Democrats to meddle in GOP primaries by boosting the most radical candidates, presumably because they’d be easier to beat in a general election.

You also wrote this: “The Doc will make some house calls at the end of the month to determine the health of those Democratic investments. And prescribe condolences accordingly.”

So, what’s up, Doc?

– MAGAfier

Dear Mf,

Much the same as the Democratic saboteurs achieved mixed results in earlier primaries, their Tuesday tally was decidedly uneven, as the Washington Post’s Amber Phillips noted in a lively roundup.

Start with the Illinois GOP gubernatorial bakeoff.

Some believed that, with 2022 looking tough for Democrats, Republicans could take the governor’s mansion in deep blue Illinois.

That got a lot more difficult after Tuesday’s Republican primary. Voters nominated conservative firebrand state Sen. Darren Bailey over a more traditional Republican candidate to take on Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) in November. Democrats are thrilled about this. Bailey wants to ban abortion in the state (except in cases where the woman’s life is in danger) and has described Chicago as “a crime-ridden, corrupt, dysfunctional hellhole.” He once tried to eject the city from the state, and he has former president Donald Trump’s endorsement.

Bailey also had $30 million worth of Pritzker and Democratic Governors Association advertising to pump him up.

Then again, the opponent Pritzker really did not want to face – Black, moderate, Aurora mayor Richard Irvin – ran a campaign grubstaked to the tune of $50 million by hedge-fund manager Kenneth Griffin.

So hold the violins, yeah?

Here’s the tally, via Ballotpedia.

Really? Fifty million bucks bought a third-place finish for Irvin?

All those dollars and no sense.

Then there’s the GOP gubernatorial race in Colorado, into which the Democratic Governors Association also stuck its nose, running an ad campaign with $1.5 million that the DGA laundered through a couple of PACs.

That was more money down the drain, as Amber Phillips noted in her WaPo piece: “Heidi Ganahl — as a University of Colorado regent, the state’s lone Republican elected statewide — defeated Greg Lopez.”

Which is to say, the moderate beat the MAGAt once again.

Ballotpedia has the numbers.

And chalk up one more for the moderates, this time in Colorado’s GOP U.S. Senate primary, which Axios’s Sophia Cai previewed this way.

In Colorado, a new Democratic super PAC cut a TV ad boosting far-right, election-denying state Rep. Ron Hanks in the June 28 GOP primary to decide who will take on Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).

The group has reserved at least $1.49 million in TV ad slots across Colorado over the next few weeks.

Hanks’ moderate Republican rival Joe O’Dea accused Democrats of “hijacking the Republican nomination for an unserious candidate who has zero chance of winning.”

Here’s how WaPo’s Amber Phillips post-mortemed it: “Republicans nominated a more moderate Republican, businessman Joe O’Dea, to challenge Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D) in November. (Democrats had spent millions trying to get a far-right state representative to win the nomination.)”

Here’s the Ballotpedia ballot results.

So, for those of you keeping score at home, the moderates beat the MAGAts (and the Dimocrats) two-to-one this past Tuesday.

Your big foam hand goes here.

Does ‘Cancel Culture’ Equal Accountability, Punishment, or Totalitarianism? (One Per Customer, Please)

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

Dear Dr. Ads,

There I was, minding my own business and checking out MediaPost’s Marketing Politics Weekly when I came across this Joe Mandese piece about a new ad campaign from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.

Cancel Culture Campaign Equates It With ‘Totalitarianism’

At a time when the prevalence of “cancel culture” appears to be peaking in the United States, nonprofit free speech advocacy group FIRE is breaking new ads, as part of a multimedia campaign focusing on it.

The campaign, created by DeVito/Verdi, features out-of-home billboards (see above) and print media buys (see below), equating cancel culture to a form of totalitarianism.

What the hell, Doc – now all of a sudden we’re Communist China because a few people’s noses get out of joint?

– FIRED-UP

Dear F-U,

Cancel culture is America’s ultimate Rorschach test. In his MediaPost piece, Joe Mandese points to a recent Pew Research Center survey to illustrate the great divide in defining what cancel culture actually means.

The Center’s previous study of cancel culture showed that the term can mean different things to different people, so Pew Research Center asked Americans a separate question about whether calling out others on social media for posting content that might be considered offensive is more likely to hold people accountable or to punish those who didn’t deserve it.

Overall, 51% of U.S. adults say calling out others on social media is more likely to hold people accountable, while 45% say it is more likely to punish people who didn’t deserve it. But these views have shifted somewhat since September 2020. The share of adults who say this type of behavior is more likely to hold people accountable has decreased by 7 points, while the share who say it is more likely to punish people who didn’t deserve it has gone up by 7 points.

Helpful graphic.

And now – just to complicate things – comes FIRE’s ad campaign, which follows the group’s rebranding from “the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (originally to promote free speech on college campuses) to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression to broaden its mandate toward freedom of speech overall,” according to Mandese.

He also cites Josh Gerstein’s Politico piece reporting that FIRE “has raised $28.5 million for a planned three-year, $75 million litigation, opinion research and public education campaign aimed at boosting and solidifying support for free-speech values.”

Here’s a TV spot featuring two Emerson College students – K.J. Lynum and Sam Neves – “whose conservative group was suspended by the school’s president for circulating ‘China kinda sus’ stickers promoting the theory that a Chinese government lab caused the outbreak of Covid-19.”

And here’s a FIRE print ad banging a different drum.

Then again, it’s not like FIRE is all that and a bag of MLK chips, as Politico’s Josh Gerstein notes.

While FIRE has received praise from many free-speech advocates, some critics have said the group is a thinly veiled front for conservatives looking to promote their political agenda. Since its inception, FIRE has received funding from a variety of conservative foundations, including millions from some linked to billionaire Charles Koch.

The liberal Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch has published this roll call of FIRE’s right-wing associations.

Connection to Conservative Dark Money Groups, Collaboration with Hate Group Alliance for Defending Freedom

FIRE has received millions of dollars in contributions from politically-active conservative nonprofits, including over $3.4 million from the Charles G. Koch Foundation, over $3.4 million from Donors Capital Fund and DonorsTrust, over $1.8 million from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, over $1.3 million from the Sarah Schaife Foundation, over $1 million from the Searle Freedom Trust, and over $1 million from the Stand Together Trust.

Progressive watchdog organization Media Matters included FIRE in a 2017 piece describing how groups funded by right-wing billionaires and dark money organizations influence college campuses. Media Matters says “FIRE has partnered with anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom for some of these cases. It has also frequently weighed in on sexual misconduct cases, arguing that the definition of sexual harassment should not include ‘large amounts of constitutionally protected expression, such as any unwanted “sexual comments, gestures, jokes, or looks,”‘ and defended campus organizations that use hateful rhetoric or seek to exclude potential group members based on sexual orientation.

In other words, FIRE at your own discretion.

Why Did Josh Mandel Go to Someone Even Less Likable Than Himself for a Senate Primary Endorsement?

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

Dear Dr. Ads,

There I was, minding my own business and reading Punchbowl News AM, when I came across this item.

Well, he doesn’t have Donald Trump’s endorsement, but Josh Mandel has a new spot with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who urges Ohio voters to send the former Buckeye State treasurer to the Senate. Mandel is seeking the GOP nomination for the Ohio Senate seat. The spot is running statewide.

Wait, what? 

Josh Mandel, a candidate too creepy for Trump, went to Ted Cruz, a politician too creepy for his entire life, for an endorsement?

How does that work, Doc?

– Buckeyed

Dear Buckeyed,

First, let’s establish the mala fides of the fulsome twosome: Here are the search results for Josh Mandel gutter and the search results for Ted Cruz hated.

As for the despicable in support of the deplorable . . .

You might ask, why would Mandel tout an endorsement from a universally reviled politician? This Associated Press piece by Jill Colvin and Julie Carr Smyth might provide a clue.

Josh Mandel runs Ohio GOP Senate campaign ‘through churches’

NORTH OLMSTED, Ohio (AP) — Before digging into his six-egg omelet at a bustling northeast Ohio diner, Republican Senate candidate Josh Mandel stopped to bow his head.

“Bless our food, our time, our conversation, in Jesus’ name,” said Pastor J.C. Church, who joined Mandel after a campaign event at a local church. ”Amen.”

The scene encapsulated Mandel’s campaign strategy as he competes in a crowded field of Republican contenders ahead of Ohio’s May 3 primary. He is a Jewish candidate who makes no secret of his faith, but who is centering his campaign around evangelical churches as he tries to win over religious, conservative voters.

(A six-egg omelet? If that’s not the Christiaan Barnard Special, the Doc doesn’t know what is.)

There’s no doubt Cruz is popular with evangelicals, but Mandel might want to consider a little Cruz control after the Texas solon attacked a high-profile opponent of Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill on his latest podcast, as the redoubtable Bess Levin detailed in Vanity Fair.

Senator Ted Cruz . . . recently suggested that because Disney decided to speak out against the bigoted Florida legislation—after receiving backlash from its employees for initially refusing to do so—it’s obviously going to introduce NC-17 story lines to its children’s programming.

In an extremely weird set of remarks, even for him, the Texas lawmaker opined at a live recording of his podcast, Verdict With Ted Cruz: “I think there are people who are misguided, trying to drive, you know, Disney stepping in, saying, you know, in every episode now they’re gonna have, you know, Mickey and Pluto going at it. Like, really? It’s just like, come on guys, these are kids, and you know, you could always shift to Cinemax if you want that.

And that’s not even Mandel’s biggest problem. The Cruz endorsement clearly falls within the knife-to-a-gunfight category, as this new spot from opponent JD Vance illustrates.

Donald Trump’s endorsement has helped Vance reopen the money spigots from his sugar daddy, Peter Thiel – the tech  billionaire who bankrolled Vance early, then ghosted him – as Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reported.

Vance parlays Trump endorsement into new Thiel money

Ohio Republican J.D. Vance is cashing in on his endorsement from former President Donald Trump with a major new super PAC donation from billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel.

Thiel has donated $3.5 million to Protect Ohio Values, the super PAC backing Vance, according to a person familiar with the contribution — part of a broader tranche of money that has come in to support the Senate candidate after last week’s Trump endorsement, which shook up a crowded and competitive race for the GOP nomination.

(For 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 candidate – Cleveland businessman Mike Gibbons – conveniently rounds out the primary’s racism trifecta.)

Here’s where the race stood, according to Real Clear Politics, as of April 14th.

We’ll soon see if a Trump endorsement is the right prescription for getting JD Vance over the hump. The Ohio primary is May 3rd.

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.

Why Is Madison Cawthorn (R-Sex & Drugs) So Panicked About Reelection?

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

Dear Dr. Ads,

There I was, minding my own business and prowling my Twitter feed, when I stumbled upon this tweet from North Carolina Congressman Madison Cawthorn.

Hey, Doc – isn’t this the same guy who fabricated stories about cocaine-fueled congressional orgies, then totally walked them back? Guess he can be stopped in some cases, yeah?

– Kinda Cawthorny

Dear Kinda,

Lately, everything Madison Cawthorn’s done has gone over like the metric system.

Start with his recent revelations about drugs and sex among Grand Old Party Animals, as Gustaf Kilander reported in The Independent,

Mr Cawthorn told the Warrior Poet Society podcast that “the sexual perversion that goes on in Washington… I look at all these people, a lot of them that I’ve looked up to through my life”.

“I’ve always paid attention to politics, all of a sudden you get invited to like, ‘well hey, we’re gonna have a kind of sexual get-together at one of our homes, you should come!’ And you realise they’re asking you to come to an orgy,” he said.

“You know, some of the people leading the movement to try and remove addiction in our country, and they watch them doing, you know, a key bump of cocaine right in front of you,” he added.

That led to a come-to-Jesus meeting with the reigning Grand Old Poobahs, as The Independent piece noted.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise met with Mr Cawthorn on Wednesday. While Mr Cawthorn, 26, refused to answer questions from reporters after the meeting, Mr McCarthy, 57, said “he’s lost my trust is gonna have to earn it back. And I laid out everything that I find is unbecoming”.

“This is unacceptable. There’s no evidence to this. He changes what he [says] and that’s not becoming of a Congressman…He did not tell the truth,” he added, alleging that Mr Cawthorn changed his story when confronted by members of Republican House leadership.

But that wasn’t the only change occasioned by Cawthorn’s moonwalk, according to this CNN report by Melanie Zanona, Manu Raju and Alex Rogers .

‘He’s an embarrassment’: Republicans threaten to primary Cawthorn over controversial antics

For those of you keeping score at home, the Republican Accountability Project contributed this head-spinning cameo from the always unreliable Roger Stone.

The next day Cawthorn himself hit back by blaming the usual suspects, as Politico’s Olivia Beavers and Craig Howie reported.

Cawthorn blames ‘the left and the media’ after intra-GOP furor over sex-and-drugs comments

Amid a burgeoning congressional controversy, Rep. Madison Cawthorn on Friday blamed Democrats and the media for amplifying his comments that some of his fellow GOP members engage in orgies and use cocaine.

“My comments on a recent podcast appearance calling out corruption have been used by the left and the media to disparage my Republican colleagues and falsely insinuate their involvement in illicit activities,” Cawthorn said in a statement without addressing the substance of his own comments directly.

“The left and the media want to use my words to divide the GOP. … I will not back down to the mob, and I will not let them win.”

“Falsely insinuate their involvement in illicit activities”? Let’s revisit the transcript, shall we?

The sexual perversion that goes on in Washington… I look at all these people, a lot of them that I’ve looked up to through my life.

I’ve always paid attention to politics, all of a sudden you get invited to like, ‘well hey, we’re gonna have a kind of sexual get-together at one of our homes, you should come!’ And you realize they’re asking you to come to an orgy,

You know, some of the people leading the movement to try and remove addiction in our country, and they watch them doing, you know, a key bump of cocaine right in front of you.

All that mishegas, however, is small potatoes compared to Cawthorn’s real problem, which the Daily Beast’s Sam Brodey recently detailed.

Madison Cawthorn Committed the One Unforgivable Sin of Politics

The ingredients are there for an upset.

If the worst thing Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) did this month was call Ukraine’s President “a thug,” or get caught speeding multiple times with a revoked license, or accuse Speaker Nancy Pelosi of being an alcoholic, the 26-year-old MAGA-influencer would probably be just fine in his re-election bid.

But Cawthorn did something far worse, at least for his own political prospects, and it may cost him his seat: He left his constituents—and then was forced to return to them, hat in hand, after the courts predictably struck down the state’s new map, and eliminated the district he left to run in, on Feb. 23.

After Cawthorn abandoned his congressional district to run in a newly drawn more conservative one, as Brodey’s piece noted, “a state court undid the lines that prompted Cawthorn to make his big play, and the district he had moved to vanished in an instant.”

That “district-switching screw-up” could in turn screw Cawthorn.

The Doc’s diagnosis: This guy’s political career is one false step away from the medical examiner’s table.

Can A GOP Congressional Primary Be ‘Almost Hell, West Virginia’?

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

Dear Dr. Ads,

There I was, minding my own business and reading Stephanie Murray’s ever lively Politico Weekly Score, when I came across this item about two GOP congressmen pitted against one another by West Virginia’s latest redistricting.

TAKE ME HOME, COUNTRY ROADS — Republican Reps. Alex Mooney and David McKinley are waging a brutal primary battle in West Virginia, after redistricting slashed the number of House seats in their home state.

The McKinley-Mooney battle is one of five member-on-member primary match-ups this cycle caused by the once-in-a-decade redrawing of congressional maps. West Virginia lost a House seat, pitting the incumbent Republicans against one another in the May 10 primary.

The House colleagues, now opponents, wasted no time getting nasty on the airwaves. Mooney has attacked McKinley as a “RINO” and a liar in TV ads, while McKinley went on the air calling Mooney a “political prostitute” and a carpetbagger. Both have tied their opponent to President Joe Biden, and highlighted their own ties to former President Donald Trump. Mooney has so far spent $686,000 on TV ads, while McKinley has spent $598,000.

What the hell, Doc – RINO/liar vs. prostitute/carpetbagger? What happened to misty taste of moonshine, teardrop in my eye?

– Mountain Mama

Dear Mama,

Yeah, those teardrops have turned into a bloodbath in this Mountain State donnybrook.

Start with Alex Mooney’s ad Breathe Free.

Not to get technical about it, but the spot is essentially fact-free outside of Mooney’s self-proclaimed family history and Trump’s endorsement.

David McKinley’s TV spot (for some unknown reason not available on YouTube) is even more venomous, albeit slightly more fact-based. Here’s the transcript.

The portrait of a political prostitute, Mooney, an opportunistic career politician who has never had a job outside of politics. He’s run for office in three different states. Mooney moved to West Virginia from Maryland so he could get elected to Congress. Now Mooney is under federal investigation for violating the law. Maryland Senator Alex Mooney – out for himself, not West Virginia.

Except . . . Mooney hasn’t been a Maryland state senator for a decade. Then again, he has run for office in three states. According to Wikipedia, “In 1993, Mooney received his B.A. in philosophy from Dartmouth College. While attending Dartmouth, he ran for the New Hampshire House of Representatives in Grafton County‘s 10th District. He finished in last place with 8% of the vote.”

As for that “federal investigation for violating the law,” the Charleston Gazette-Mail’s Mike Tony reported that Mooney is facing double trouble on the ethics front.

Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.VA., is the subject of a matter under review by the House Ethics Committee following a second referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics regarding the four-term congressman.

The House Ethics Committee announced [last month] that it is continuing a review of Mooney regarding a matter that was transmitted to the bipartisan committee by the independent, nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics on Dec. 22. The committee did not specify the matter and noted that the referral and the committee’s review did not mean a violation took place.

The House Ethics Committee already was investigating Mooney for allegedly using campaign money for personal expenses, which would be a violation of federal law.

According to Politico’s Murray, six weeks from primary day “plenty of GOP primary voters are still up for grabs, according to a recent poll. McKinley led Mooney by 5 percentage points in a North Star Opinion research poll conducted for the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, although 25 percent of voters were undecided. McKinley had 38 percent and Mooney had 33 percent.”

The Doc’s diagnosis:  This is gonna get way more hellish before it’s over.