"Well, as long as they are photogenic, at least," kids a GOP official.
Joking aside, using candidate parents in campaign ads is now a GOP recommendation to Republicans fending off attacks that they would eliminate Medicare by adopting House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's budget blueprint that calls for massive reforms and potential cuts of the program.
The reason: It worked for new Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei. He was besieged by opponent Kate Marshall in ads that said he would back Ryan's plan "that ends Medicare as we know it." Anticipating the attack, Amodei cut ads hitting Marshall's support for President Obama's health overhaul law that critics say cuts $500 billion from Medicare. Then he used his mom to inoculate himself. "I will work to support and improve the program," Amodei says to the camera as his mom comes into the picture. "You'd better, Mark. I'm counting on you," she says. In a second ad his mother accuses Marshall of lying about her son's positions.
Eventually, Amodei distanced himself from the Ryan Medicare cuts, but Marshall kept hitting Amodei, and even his mom's appearances in his ads, but with little effect. In the end, he won by 22 percent, a lesson the GOP is impressing upon candidates. "When tackled head on, Republicans can win this argument by holding Democrats accountable for being the only party to support a government healthcare takeover that cut $500 billion from Medicare," says Mike Shields, political director of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Another tactic the GOP rolled out in the Nevada race others are being encouraged to copy was directly linking Marshall to Obama, whose unpopularity even helped the Republicans win a historically liberal seat in New York Tuesday. In the Nevada case, the NRCC ended some ads with a picture of Marshall with Obama. One ad titled "Echo" simply showed clips of Obama campaigning followed by Marshall saying the very same words.
For Democrats the GOP tactics are a big whatever. They pledge to hit even harder on the Medicare issue, especially now that they know what they're up against. Polls agree that it should be a winner for the Democrats: Bloomberg says three of four adults oppose the GOP plan to cut Medicare.
But NRCC officials say that the political climate has changed, giving the Republicans a chance to make and win their case. "Democrat leaders have often declared this year that dozens of seats are within reach and that reinstating [Nancy] Pelosi as speaker was their game plan. It's now clear that the Democrats' failed economic record and unpopular polices are getting in the way of their goal," says Shields in a memo to candidates provided to Whispers. "The Democrats expected to reuse their playbook in elections across the country, but we have now seen in a real race that engaging and fighting on Medicare can not only neutralize the issue, but Republicans can win on the issue."
Below is a timeline of the key ads of the Nevada campaign on the Medicare issue.
-First Medicare attack ad from Marshall on August 5.
-Amodei's comeback, featuring his mom, on August 8.
-NRCC's ad against Marshall on Medicare August 9.
-Marshall's next hit on Amodei on Medicare on August 10.
-NRCC's next anti-Marshall ad on Medicare, August 17.
-Amodie brings his mom in to counter Marshall ads, August 18.
-Another ad from Marshall hitting Amodie and his mom on Medicare, August 30.
-Marshall's final anti-Amodie ad that includes a Medicare mention, September 5.