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Campaign Spot-Light: Age Resurfaces in Primary Ads

This is Roll Call’s weekly installment of the most interesting individual spots or trends we noticed in Senate and House political advertising.  

A couple of months ago, we noted that campaigns included dated music from another era  in ads to illustrate just how long a politician has been on the scene.  

Of late, we’ve seen campaigns revisit this concept. But instead of disco and hippie music, we see candidates deploy euphemisms as weapons against incumbents older than 70. The ads share similarities — they mention age or length of time in office, and often they overlay a graphic of the U.S. Capitol as they state specifics on age.  

Here are three ads that broke through the clutter on this front in recent weeks: Fun With Word Choice: Campaigns are using words like “generation,” “new,” “tomorrow” and “future” in primary ads where a much-younger candidate challenges older incumbents. State Sen. Chris McDaniel aired a recent ad against six-term Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, and the diction includes terminology like “lose touch” and “sadly.” Campaigns further drive home the point by including specific numbers, be it age or tenure.  


The McDaniel campaign did not include media buy info in its news release on the ad, but his campaign had several hundred thousand dollars in the bank as of his last fundraising report . Of course, the race was thrown in flux over the past week as McDaniel supporters have been arrested for photographing Cochran’s wife in her nursing home.  

Throw in an old-fashioned backhanded compliment: In this tact, a campaign will find a way to weave in an incumbent’s age or years in politics in the middle of a compliment or “thank you” for service.  

In the upcoming May 27 primary runoff for Texas’ 4th District, Republican attorney John Ratcliffe released an ad against the seat’s incumbent, Rep. Ralph M. Hall. Only three days after Hall’s birthday this month, Ratcliffe was up with a six-figure ad buy stating, “At 91, Ralph Hall has served admirably. But after four decades in Washington, our problems are getting worse. Not better.”  


Just go there: Attorney Ro Khanna did something similar this week in an ad against 72-year-old Democratic Rep. Michael M. Honda.  

“Isn’t it time to put the old politics aside?” a narrator asks, over, of course, an image of the U.S. Capitol.
The Khanna campaign did not release media buy info, but he has a massive war chest that can support television advertising ahead of the June 3 top-two primary in California’s 17th District.

Emily Cahn contributed to this report.
Have an ad you think we should see? Email us here with “Political Ad” in the subject line.
If you are a consultant, please include media buy info if available. There’s a warm seat in Roll Call hell for those who portray Web videos without any cash behind them as television ads. If you are a voter and noticed an interesting spot, please describe it and tell us the program and network where you saw it run.

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