The first TV ads in the CD11 race are so nice, and even a bit hokey, it almost seems surprising there are no cameos by Ward and June Cleaver.
You probably have seen them, but just in case, here’s a quick recap.
Mikie Sherrill’s ad opens with her talking about how she had to take a lot of tests before the Navy let her fly helicopters. Really?
We then see the Democratic congressional candidate scaling a high dive and presumably diving (although we do not actually see her in flight) into a pool. A few seconds later, she appears in a courtroom and then there’s a photo of two of her children hopping out of a car on their way to playing lacrosse.
Republican candidate Jay Webber just began running ads this week.
The scene opens in the kitchen with backpacks sitting on a table. As Webber’s children scoot by to pick them up, the candidate’s wife, Johanna, praises her husband’s work in the public arena and at home. The ad describes Webber as a husband, father, tax cutter and leader – in that order.
It is easy for those who follow politics closely to be cynical. So the trick is to view these ads through the lens of average people, not political junkies.
On that score. the spots seek to convey what may be the underlining themes of both candidates.
There are not all that many former Navy helicopter pilots running for Congress. So the Sherrill camp clearly wants to get their candidate’s military background out there as soon as possible. The ad certainly does that. Those viewing something about Sherrill for the first time see a helicopter and hear about the candidate attending the Naval Academy and flight school. These are valuable points to make, especially when you consider that military veterans generally speaking tend to lean Republican.
Webber’s introductory ad has a family values touch to it, which is a longstanding Republican principle.
The piece conveys the message that Webber is first and foremost a devoted husband and father of seven children. Politics is important, but it comes after family responsibilities.
Obviously, the interesting thing here is what happens next?
In a race with genuine national implications, things are bound to get a bit rough.
The guess here is that when the real battle begins, Sherrill will make a lot about Webber’s support for the Trump tax bill. She does have a lot of ammunition here.
All but one Republican House member from New Jersey opposed the tax bill, primarily because the deduction for state and local taxes is capped at $10,000. Just last week, Sherrill sent out a release highlighting Webber’s support for the tax bill after the IRS blocked a move by New Jersey to cushion its impact by allowing municipalities to consider property taxes as charitable donations.
This can be a significant talking point for Sherrill, because it can challenge Webber to break with Donald Trump on this issue. Trump’s approval rating in New Jersey may not be high. but Webber needs the president’s ardent supporters to vote for him.
Webber has said that the tax bill provides the average family of four in the district with an estimated $6,000 benefit. .However, his campaign is relying on a December, 2017 chart by the House Ways and Means Committee that does not appear to take capping the so-called SALT deduction into consideration.
So, what is Webber’s line of attack?
After winning the June primary, Webber sought to portray Sherrill as a radical leftist who would back Nancy Pelosi for Speaker and who wants to abolish ICE.
Sherrill responds by saying that she would not support Pelosi for speaker and that she wants to “reform” ICE, not abolish it.
Webber can always double-down on those points, but a hunch here is that he will rely on the good economy. Unemployment has been decreasing, job growth has been steady and the stock market has risen during the Trump’ presidency. So why take a chance putting the Democrats in charge of Congress?
Whether the campaign will escalate into personal attacks remains to be seen, but one thing is sure, as August turns into September. We are unlikely to see any more political ads reminiscent of TV shows from the Eisenhower era.