IA-02: Big issues, cheap shots

Medicare and alleged “job-killing” policies are the focus of the latest television commercials from Representative Dave Loebsack and his GOP challenger John Archer. Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Committee is taking cheap shots over a committee hearing Loebsack attended three and a half years ago.

Videos and transcripts of the latest television commercials in Iowa’s second Congressional district are after the jump. Bleeding Heartland covered previous ads from this race here, here, and here.

Loebsack’s third tv ad, called “Fundamentally,” went up on October 5:

Footage of John Archer at a public event: We have to fundamentally change the structure of Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare.” [words on screen next to Archer, JOHN ARCHER “WE HAVE TO FUNDAMENTALLY CHANGE THE STRUCTURE OF SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICAID, AND MEDICARE.”]

Male voice-over: Whoa. [screen shifts to black with word WHOA in large letters]

John Archer supports ending Medicare as we know it, privatizing it. [footage of Archer, words on screen AARP “UNDERMINE MEDICARE’S PROMISE” Source: AARP, 4/5/11]

Increasing costs on seniors by over six thousand a year. [view of older man, then older woman, looking seriously into camera; words on screen JOHN ARCHER INCREASING COSTS BY $6,400 A YEAR Source: Congressional Budget Office, 4/5/11]

We just can’t afford John Archer. [footage of Archer, speaking, reaching out with his hand as if to grab something, words on screen WE CAN’T AFFORD JOHN ARCHER]

Loebsack: We’ve got to balance the budget the right way,  [Loebsack speaks to small group of people, some standing behind him, some sitting in rows in front of him; words on screen DAVE LOEBSACK BALANCE THE BUDGET THE RIGHT WAY]

by protecting Medicare for seniors who have earned it after a lifetime of hard work. [words on screen DAVE LOEBSACK PROTECT MEDICARE]

Loebsack’s voice: I’m Dave Loebsack, and I approve this message. [footage of audience applauding Loebsack, words on screen DAVE LOEBSACK FOR CONGRESS. FOR IOWA. ]

Democrats are running versions of this message in dozens of House districts around the country. There’s nothing special about the commercial, but it was a good choice to show Archer speaking about this issue in his own voice. He didn’t say we need to make a few changes to extend the solvency of Medicare and Social Security. He said we need to “fundamentally” alter the programs.

Television viewers have seen so many commercials about Medicare this year. I don’t think any of these ads are changing minds, but research on agenda-setting and priming suggests that even though the media can’t tell people “what to think,” it can sometimes tell people “what to think about.” This strategy could help Loebsack with voters in IA-02 who may have doubts about him but share his views on Medicare. In any case, I don’t see how this commercial could hurt the incumbent, unlike his last spot.

Archer’s first general election tv ad told voters a little about the Republican candidate. He turned hard negative in his second commercial, “Too Far.” This went up in the Quad Cities market on October 10.

My transcript:

Archer’s voice: I’m John Archer, and I approve this message. [Photo of Archer, next to his campaign logo]

Male voice-over: Dave Loebsack has gone too far. [photo of Loebsack speaking from a podium; words on screen DAVE LOEBSACK HAS GONE TOO FAR]

We knew Loebsack was a job-killer, [image of Loebsack shrinks, words get bigger WE KNEW LOEBSACK WAS A JOB KILLER]

voting for higher taxes on small businesses [image of Loebsack next to photo of old-fashioned small-town grocery store; words on screen VOTING FOR HIGHER TAXES SMALL BUSINESSES]

and big-government regulations. [image of U.S. capitol above words DAVE LOEBSACK: BIG GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS]

Now Loebsack is attacking a company that employs thousands of Iowans. [Different photo of Loebsack in profile; words on screen “LOEBSACK CAUSED A LOCAL FUROR WITH HIS AD” The National Journal, 10/4/12]

And Loebsack voted for Obamacare, [photo of Loebsack shrinks, moves behind a photo of President Barack Obama, words on screen LOEBSACK VOTED FOR OBAMACARE]

cutting Medicare for seniors in need, [photo of sad-looking older man in center of screen, Loebsack photo on left, Obama on right, words on screen CUTTING MEDICARE FOR SENIORS]

putting 15 Washington bureaucrats in charge of rationing Medicare for Iowans. [image of 15 faceless men wearing suits, standing in front of the U.S. Capitol, then words RATIONING MEDICARE FOR IOWANS appear on screen]

Dave Loebsack: A job-killer hurting Iowa families. [photo of Loebsack next to image of Capitol, words DAVE LOEBSACK A JOB KILLER HURTING IOWA FAMILIES]

That’s quite a laundry list of Republican talking points. With minimal alterations, challengers could run this ad against almost any House Democrat.

I think the rapid-fire script and shifting graphics are distracting. Casual viewers might not even notice the line about Loebsack “attacking a company that employs thousands of Iowans.” It refers to Loebsack’s campaign commercial blaming Archer for outsourcing by his employer (John Deere).

Fact-checkers have debunked this “panel of bureaucrats rationing Medicare” claim countless times, but Republicans keep using it, and I’m sure a large percentage of IA-02 residents believe it.

Still, I’d hire a better ad consultant if I were Archer. From where I’m sitting, this doesn’t convey his message effectively.

The National Republican Congressional Committee pulled out of IA-01 two weeks ago but is still on the air against Loebsack. The latest NRCC ad to run in the Quad Cities is “Sleepwalking.”

My transcript:

Male voice-over: Is Dave Loebsack asleep on the job? [silly music plays with sound of snoring in background, viewer sees office desk with Congressman Loebsack nameplate, man’s feet propped up on desk]  

The media says Loebsack fell asleep in a critical meeting about ObamaCare. [actor meant to resemble Loebsack wearing suit and tie leans back in office chair with feet up on desk, viewer sees close-up of man’s face as he snores; words on screen LOEBSACK FELL ASLEEP IN A CRITICAL MEETING ABOUT OBAMACARE; Roll Call, 06/25/09]

Was Loebsack asleep when he voted to cut Medicare? [Man supposed to resemble Loebsack leans forward to nap with head on desk; words on screen LOEBSACK VOTED TO CUT 716 BILLION FROM MEDICARE Vote # 165 & 167, 03/21/10]

Did Loebsack sleep walk when he voted to raise taxes on agriculture and manufacturing? [actor appears to be sleepwalking around desk, words on screen LOEBSACK VOTED TO RAISE TAXES ON AGRICULTURE AND MANUFACTURING]

The Des Moines Register says Loebsack is Iowa’s least effective Congressman. Now you know why. [man sleeping with head on desk, viewer hears snoring, words on screen Des Moines Register: “LEAST EFFECTIVE” IOWA CONGRESSMAN 05/06/12]

Send Loebsack to bed. Send someone stronger to Congress. [man sleeping with feet up on desk, leaning back in chair, appears to fall backwards in chair; words on screen SEND LOEBSACK TO BED. SEND SOMEONE STRONGER TO CONGRESS]

The National Republican Congressional Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.

I wasn’t impressed with the NRCC’s first effort in IA-02, but at least that ad focused on Loebsack’s voting record.

This commercial is a disgrace.

The stuff about Medicare and alleged tax increases is a smokescreen–the goal is to make Loebsack look a guy who’s always sleeping on the job. All because Roll Call reported that he dozed off during a House Education and Labor Committee hearing on health care reform in June 2009.

If Loebsack had a pattern of falling asleep at work or not paying attention to policy details, this kind of attack would be fair game. But it’s a cheap shot against a guy who fell asleep at one committee hearing during six years in Congress.

The Des Moines Register did rate Loebsack as the least effective U.S. House member from Iowa. He’s got less seniority than Tom Latham, Leonard Boswell, or Steve King, and he’s gotten fewer bills passed into law than Bruce Braley. However, he works hard on constituent service and is accessible, attending hundreds of events around his district.

Earlier this week, Archer and Loebsack faced off at a candidate forum in Coralville. According to Adam Sullivan’s report for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Archer said he would not sign Grover Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” because “We have to look at all possible scenarios to get us out of where we’re at.” Both he and Loebsack advocated a constitutional amendment to balance the budget and “said Simpson-Bowles, a deficit-reduction plan commissioned by President Obama, was a good starting point for budget talks.”

However, Loebsack said the federal budget – which was more than $1 trillion in the red last fiscal year – can’t be fixed overnight.

“We can’t do this all at once,” Loebsack said. “(U.S. Rep. and former Republican presidential candidate) Ron Paul was wrong when he said we have to cut a trillion over 1 year.”

Archer called for a “sooner than later” deficit fix. He even dodged a question about gay marriage to bring his message back to spending.

“Look across the Atlantic to Greece, Spain and Italy. Are they talking about gay marriage in those countries? No, they’re talking about survival of the country. That’s what we have to focus on,” he said.

Iowa Public Television will broadcast the next IA-02 debate on October 16. Yesterday Loebsack’s campaign tried to set the agenda for the next phase of this race with the following press release:

AUDIO: John Archer’s “47 Percent” Moment

Says in interview that 50% of Americans are a “real weakness”

Iowa City, IA – While campaigning, when asked to access America’s weakness, John Archer made the following comments referring to the 50 percent of Americans he views as a “real weakness”.

Question: “What’s your thoughts on the strength, weaknesses, opportunities, threats for the United States?”

John Archer: “Some of our weaknesses here in America. You have an entitlement society. You have about 50% of the American population now believes that they are entitled to a government handout. That’s a real weakness.” [May 2, 2012 John Archer Interview with KROS Radio]

“To refer to a veteran who has returned home from serving their country, or a senior who has worked their entire life and paid into Social Security and Medicare as a “weakness” is troubling and frankly insulting.  When you are elected to office you are supposed to fight 100 percent of the time for 100 percent of the people.  In Iowa, we don’t seek to divide folks.  We believe in honoring our commitments to those who served our country, paid into Social Security, and who have worked hard to succeed.   I see this as a strength, certainly not a weakness. It’s how I was able to get where I am today, it’s the foundation of the American Dream, and it’s what makes our nation the greatest country on earth,” said Dave Loebsack.

Archer released this statement explaining his comments:

“My statement was exemplifying the weaknesses in our nation’s current tax code, not casting a negative light on any individual or group,” Archer said in a written statement. “Because of Congress’ inability to take action, we have a real problem with our tax code. We have individuals who do not know if they will owe money to the government or receive money from the government. Then we also have people who hire tax professionals to find loopholes. We need to put an end to the tax code loopholes while at the same time lowering rates for all tax payers.”

Any comments about this campaign are welcome in this thread. The latest voter registration numbers show that IA-02 contains 169,315 active registered Democrats, 140,063 Republicans, and 175,047 no-party voters. The latest early voting figures show that Democrats in the district have requested about twice as many ballots as Republicans.

UPDATE: The Federal Election Commission’s independent expenditure report for IA-02 shows that very few organizations other than the NRCC have gotten involved in this race. The National Right to Life PAC spent a little more than $5,000 on direct mail supporting Archer, but otherwise, conservative interest groups don’t appear to view Loebsack as a promising target. I am not aware of any independent expenditures supporting Loebsack during the general election campaign.

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