Politics & Government

Republicans to unleash new ad blitz targeting swing-district Democrats on impeachment

Republicans are planning to target Democrats in swing districts with a new round of ads on impeachment this week as lawmakers return from their fall recess.

The Republican National Committee will spend $350,000 on a multi-media buy as part of a strategy that includes digital ads, text messages and phone calls starting Tuesday calling on Democratic House members to “stop the madness.” The effort is primarily targeted at the 31 Democrats in districts President Donald Trump carried in 2016.

“We’ll emphasize it’s time to move on,” RNC spokesman Rick Gorka told McClatchy. “There are real issues they could be working on, anything but this.”

Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Georgia, who supports an impeachment inquiry, is one of the GOP targets. She defeated a Republican incumbent last year in a district Trump won.

The ad says McBath “said she would fight for Republicans, Democrats and independents. But by supporting impeachment, it’s clear McBath has sided with radical D.C. Democrats and their witch hunts over her constituents.”

Earlier this month, the party spent about $2 million targeting Democrats, calling for an end to the “endless investigations” of Trump.

Congress has been in recess since Sept. 26 — two days after the House launched its impeachment inquiry — and will return Tuesday. Three House committees have been meeting during the recess almost daily, talking strategy and taking depositions from key players.

While no timetable for proceeding has been firmly established, it’s expected that the process will move quickly, with a House vote possible before the end of the year.

Republicans had already been urging constituents in recent weeks to pressure lawmakers as they traveled in their districts to give up the idea of impeachment. During the congressional recess, GOP loyalists protested outside field offices. They urged Trump supporters to visit town halls by Democrats in swing districts to voice their views.

But in three swing California districts, McClatchy reporters found the strategy was not working. People were more interested in talking about issues impacting their daily lives, such as jobs and health care.

Democrats have their own plan of action. One of the main components of the party’s strategy is a Democratic National Committee war room in Washington with dozens of operatives including veterans of the 2016 campaign who have been tracking Trump for years.

They provide daily email blasts, special content that goes to local voters and what the party calls “disruptive online content,” such as a video detailing what the party says are Trump’s broken promises. The party is also working directly within the battlegrounds to define and localize his record.

“A distraction campaign won’t erase Trump’s record: He’s spiked health care costs, his tax scam will raise taxes on tens of millions of working families in order to give his rich friends another handout,” said David Bergstein, the DNC’s director of battleground state communications.

Democrats have also been collecting what the party calls thousands of documents detailing Trump’s 2016 promises in local communities.

For example, it will look at whether the 2017 Republican-authored tax cut, which Trump said would benefit all income earners, has done so. Or whether health care costs have gone down, as the president said they would.

The party’s battleground states program is creating efforts in swing states, notably Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, Ohio, Texas, Nevada, and Wisconsin.

House Democratic leaders have long been concerned about their prospects in districts Trump won, and resisted beginning an impeachment inquiry for months, believing constituents were more interested in health care, gun control, jobs and other issues.

That concern hasn’t faded, but Democrats have largely unified since news broke last month about Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump asked Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Trump made the request after blocking military aid to Ukraine.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had been reluctant to begin an impeachment process, announced Sept. 24 that the House would begin an inquiry. All but eight of the House’s 235 Democrats now support the process.

Republicans, though, see the inquiry making vulnerable Democrats’ prospects even shakier. Gorka cited internal GOP polling showing independents overwhelmingly oppose impeachment, though nonpartisan national surveys by Marist, Monmouth and the Washington Post-Schar School show support among independents growing.

A Marist poll released Friday found a 19 point shift among independents favoring the inquiry. Independent approval is now 54 percent.

“Democrats are winning round one with independents who have moved in their direction,” said poll director Lee Miringoff.

David Lightman is McClatchy’s chief congressional correspondent. He’s been writing, editing and teaching for 47 years, with stops in Hagerstown, Riverside, Calif., Annapolis, Baltimore and since 1981, Washington.