What Even is This Nevada Senate Campaign Ad?

Author’s Note: the following post is not meant to be taken as a work of legitimate political analysis. Its primary goal is to call attention to a bizarre campaign ad and understand its intentions. 

Imagine if I put out an attack advertisement about another politics blog. Pretty standard stuff, right? (Okay, maybe not, but just assume it is for this hypothetical.) Now, imagine if in that ad, I mentioned how my enemy’s blog supported the 1978 Camp David Accords. That’s where things get weird, and it’s exactly what we’re seeing in Nevada’s Senate election…sort of.

That race is one of the most closely watched of the election cycle, so it’s no surprise that campaign ads are coming out from both sides. But, a new commercial against the Democrat, Jacky Rosen, might be the strangest of this election cycle.

This advertisement was sponsored by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, or NRSC, a body that works to elect GOP candidates to the Senate. Therefore, Dean Heller, the Republican incumbent to the seat, likely had little to no involvement in its creation. Still, its very existence is a head-scratcher.

The commercial, titled “Posing for Pictures,” fits — or at least tries to fit — three different stories in thirty seconds. The advertisement interestingly begins with a history lesson, detailing actress Jane Fonda’s controversial visit to Hanoi in 1972. It then lambastes Ms. Rosen for failing to appear at a House vote on a piece of legislation that would “help Vietnam veterans dying from Agent Orange.” The ad finally ties this all together by releasing the bombshell of the century: Jane Fonda helped Jacky Rosen fund-raise. It ends with a side-by-side shot of Ms. Fonda and Ms. Rosen, both of whom were just “posing for pictures.”

If you’re confused, that’s okay. So am I. Let’s start by unpacking the sensible things about this advertisement. First, it’s playing to a pro-military base. Second, it showcases Ms. Rosen’s supposed refusal to fulfill her obligations as Representative of Nevada’s 3rd congressional district. Third, well, that’s about it.

The NRSC’s decision to use the Vietnam War as its main rhetorical device is interesting, but it’s not the worst idea ever. As of 2012, there were around 80,000 Vietnam veterans living in Nevada. For context, the 2012 NV Senate race saw just over 900,000 votes cast. Yet, that initial number is likely lower now, and not every veteran will turn out to vote. Hence, even in such a close race, it’s strange to consider this an important electorate to win over.

We’ll likely never know why this particular advertisement was run, and in the grand scheme of things, it probably won’t really matter. The devil’s advocate in me hopes this unconventional message could end up turning voters away from Heller, by painting him as a candidate detached from his voters.

The chances of that happening are slim, but one thing is for certain; as the writers at Daily Kos Elections said this morning, “Someone at the NRSC must be confused that it’s 1972 instead of 2018.” Yeah.

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