Republicans abandon failing economic message in Ohio special election


A new Republican ad in Ohio from a group linked to House Speaker Paul Ryan spews hate-filled anti-immigrant rhetoric instead of focusing on the economy.

The special election race in Ohio's 12th Congressional District, a traditionally Republican area, is turning into an extremely close race between Democratic candidate Danny O'Connor and Republican Troy Balderson.

The 12th District special election is on August 7, only about two weeks away. Trump carried the district by 11 points in 2016 — but the race is now a toss-up, according to the Cook Political Report. And the most recent internal poll from O'Connor's campaign shows him neck-and-neck with Balderson.

Republicans are panicking that O'Connor might turn yet another congressional seat blue. So they're turning to a classic Trump tactic: abandon any economic message and focus instead on spewing anti-immigrant rhetoric to try to energize the far-fight fringe base.

Ever since Republicans passed their $2 trillion, deficit-funded tax scam, GOP strategists have insisted that messaging on taxes and the economy will help the party win in the 2018 midterm elections.

But you wouldn't know it from looking at this hateful new ad from the Congressional Leadership Fund, a SuperPAC linked to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), which tries to boost Balderson's campaign with anti-immigrant smears and lies about O'Connor's record.

The ad looks like it could have been inspired by the Nazi-linked white nationalists who marched with torches in Charlottesville. Using ominous music and frightening images of hooded brown men, the ad peddles racist lies about immigrants and crime.

The ad blatantly misrepresents O'Connor's position on a range of immigration issues. An analysis by the Columbus Dispatch concludes that the ad is "an attempt at guilt-by-association, an effort that falls flat because it is factually challenged."

O'Connor embraces the commonsense, compassionate position, supported by a majority of Americans, of finding a path to citizenship for Dreamers, people who were brought to America as children with their parents. But the ad makes the wild accusation that this mainstream position is equivalent to "open borders" or "amnesty," which is simply a lie.

Contrary to the ad's misleading claims, O'Connor supports enforcing current immigration laws. He also opposes abolishing ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), which puts him at odds with some progressive Democrats who say that ICE should be disbanded and reorganized due to its human rights abuses.

And like most Americans, O'Connor opposes building a wall along the border with Mexico, which would be a colossal and ineffective waste of money. The ad accurately portrayed O'Connor's position on this issue, but misled by making it seem like a scary, extreme idea.

Ironically, the executive director of the Ryan-aligned SuperPAC behind this racist ad said in January that Republicans must focus their messaging on the economy. In fact, he argued, Republicans' only hope of keeping their House majority is to convince middle-class voters that the GOP tax scam was good for them.

So much for that.

It's not hard to see why Republicans are running scared from messaging on taxes.

The GOP tax scam has been a bust for most workers, who haven't noticed any increase in their paychecks — but it's been a boon to rich Wall Street tycoons.

Wealthy companies are spending billions of dollars on stock buybacks, which "help enrich corporate executives, whose compensation is often linked to their share price," as CNN explains.

In fact, CNN reports, corporations spent so much on stock buybacks in the second quarter of this year, they could have sent a $1,000 check to 6.8 million workers every single trading day of that same period for the same amount of money.

Republicans like Ryan often point to one-time bonuses for workers as evidence of the tax scam's success. But the discrepancy between those modest bonuses and the amount being spent on stock buybacks is simply staggering.

Thanks to the GOP tax scam, wages are down, adjusted for inflation. Job growth is continuing at a healthy clip, but the growth is 13 percent slower under Trump than during President Obama's second term.

Republicans don't have much to brag about on the economy — but if recent history is any guide, pivoting to racist resentments is also a recipe for failure.

In the 2017 Virginia governor's race, establishment candidate Ed Gillespie ran on an economic message and only narrowly won the GOP primary against a far-right opponent. But after he pivoted to fear-mongering, Trump-like attacks on immigrants in the general election campaign, he lost by almost ten points.

Despite the failure in Virginia, Republicans brought out the same playbook in a Pennsylvania special election in March. After abandoning ads about the tax scam, Republicans focused on anti-immigrant rhetoric. Republicans lost that deeply red seat that Trump easily carried in 2016.

And now in Ohio, Republicans are once again spreading a "factually challenged" message of fear and division rather than telling Ohioans what Balderson stands for.

Meanwhile, Balderson has been spreading plenty of falsehoods on his own with no outside help. His latest ad was so full of lies about O'Connor, he was shamed into deleting a social media post promoting it.

Either way, Balderson's embrace of a law that abandons the middle class while lavishing billions on Wall Street investors appears to be a losing campaign message.

Ohioans deserve better.