1. Democrats as a threat to law and order
This is the predominant Republican attack against Democrats. It’s prevalent because Democrats are trying to unseat Republicans in Republican-leaning communities as President Trump’s struggling poll numbers show that independents, women and seniors are peeling away from him and the Republican Party. So Republicans’ job is to make these Democratic challengers seem too far left for former Trump voters to support. Democrats argue that Republicans are overplaying their hand with these attacks by overtly using scare tactics.
“If Democrats win, the mob wins,” says the narrator of an ad against Democrat Theresa Greenfield, who is trying to unseat Sen. Joni Ernst (R) in a competitive race in Iowa. It features images of fiery protests and looters. Greenfield does not support some protesters’ call to defund police departments. But Republicans are trying to tie her (and many other Democrats) to it anyway by arguing she is “bankrolled by the radical left.”
“Dangerous to our community” is a cherry-picked description from House Republicans’ campaign arm for Democrat Kara Eastman, who is challenging Rep. Don Bacon (R) in Nebraska’s 2nd District. They took words from a county attorney, also a Democrat, who criticized Eastman and others for how they chimed in on a deadly Omaha shooting during one of the protests. But he wasn’t calling Eastman herself dangerous.
In a North Texas suburban district, the House Republicans’ campaign arm describes Democrat Candace Valenzuela as “too radical.” And in a number of competitive House races in the New York area, the GOP is trying to weaponize a new state law that lets people arrested for nonviolent felony charges get out of jail without posting bail while their court cases are pending.
2. Republicans as a threat to health care and preexisting conditions coverage
Democrats want to follow their 2018 playbook, which helped them win the House majority. That means talking about health care, health care, health care. Polls showed that the Affordable Care Act got more popular after Republicans tried and failed to repeal it early in Trump’s presidency. Being the “party of health-care protections” is especially resonant, Democrats say, in a pandemic, and when a conservative-leaning Supreme Court will hear a case that could overturn the Affordable Care Act — and its popular protections for preexisting conditions — in November.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) has a long record, going back to his time as state senator, of opposing Democratic-led proposals to expand health-care coverage. (He has introduced his own, slimmer proposal for health-care reform that would protect coverage for some people with preexisting conditions.) Democrats are highlighting that record in this presidential and Senate swing state, such as this attack ad from a Democratic super PAC:
The pandemic often plays a starring role in these health ads. That same Senate Democratic super PAC found an Iowa doctor to slam Ernst for her promotion of a conspiracy theory about coronavirus fatalities being lower than what the government is reporting.
Many more ads, often targeted to seniors, attempt to tie Republican members of Congress to rising prescription drug costs by arguing they haven’t done anything to stop it while in power.
3. Democrats as radical on health care
Republicans know health care has worked against them before. They’re responding to Democrats by tying anyone they can to the party’s more liberal wing, which supports Medicare-for-all.
In Iowa’s competitive 1st District, Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D) doesn’t support entirely government-run health care. But she does support a public option. Republicans seized on it with an ad blurring the line.
Some Republicans are trying to recast themselves as supportive of coverage for preexisting conditions. In a competitive Texas House race along the southern border, Republican Tony Gonzales has shared his own personal health scare as a way to reassure voters he wouldn’t end coverage for preexisting conditions.
4. Democrats as the party of Nancy Pelosi and the liberal wing
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is portrayed as the villain in a number of attack ads from the House Republicans’ campaign arm. These kinds of ads are particularly prominent in the four or five districts House Democrats won in 2018 in conservative-leaning states such as Oklahoma, New Mexico and Utah. These Democrats’ reelections depend on them separating themselves from the Democratic Party, and Republicans are trying not to let them do that. “She’s with Pelosi, not us,” says one ad attacking Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.)
Similar attack ads, such as the one against Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah), have flashes of prominent liberal members of Congress such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) just to drive home the point.
And Republicans are using Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s plan to raise taxes by $3.5 trillion to $4 trillion over a decade — albeit almost all from corporations and the wealthy — to attack Democrats such as Rep. Joe Cunningham (S.C.) as being extreme.
5. Republicans as corrupt and even criminal
A classic Democratic line of attack is to try to cast Republicans as the party of special interests (and not the little guy). This year that includes ads about corruption, and the more they’re about health care, the better for Democrats.
“In Ann Wagner’s office, there are two phones,” says an ad targeting Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.). The ad shows a well-used cellphone labeled drug lobbyists, and a dusty one labeled constituents. You can get the picture from there.
In Colorado, Democrats are aggressively highlighting the arrest record of Republican House nominee Lauren Boebert, a pro-gun activist who has been arrested in connection with several minor cases, such as allegedly harassing neighbors or allegedly urging minors detained for underage drinking to run from police, the Denver Post reports.