Democrats have been on defense on the economy this year, and the latest report showing inflation still at a 40-year high hasn’t helped. But a new $4.5 million ad campaign seeks to test whether Democrats can craft economic messages that put Republicans on defense.
The six-week ad campaign launched Monday by a group called Unrig Our Economy, which launched earlier this year, targets GOP Reps. Nicole Malliotakis of New York, David Valadao of California, Don Bacon of Nebraska and Ashley Hinson of Iowa. The ads argue that the lawmakers have done more to support corporations than working-class people.
“The point of this campaign is over several years, at least three years, to prove that we need to be going on offense on the economy. We need to be showing the difference between Republicans and Democrats on the economy, namely that I think the Republican Party is siding with corporations and the wealthy instead of working people,” Sarah Baron, the campaign director, said in an interview.
The effort aims to prove “that if Democrats lead with a progressive, populist economic message, we can actually build back credibility for our side on the economy, specifically,” Baron added.
The ads try to tie the Republican lawmakers to corporations and criticize them for not voting to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
“It’s time to tell Congresswoman Malliotakis, stop voting for corporations over working families,” one ad says.
“Since getting into Congress, Don’s been bringing home the bacon for the ultra wealthy and big corporations,” another says, playing off the Nebraska incumbent’s name.
In an emailed statement, Bacon said his opponent would raise taxes.
“The voters of the 2nd District know my record a lot better than an outside progressive group trying to change the subject that Joe Biden is the reincarnation of Jimmy Carter when it comes to handling America’s economy,” he said. “Bottom line, this group wants to raise our taxes and undermine our country in the global economy.”
Republicans have hammered Democrats on economic issues like high inflation and gas prices for weeks and see those issues building on a favorable political environment ahead of the November elections. Data released Friday show that inflation was high again in May, with prices up 8.6 percent over the previous year and remaining at a 40-year high.
“Democrats’ American Rescue Plan is one of the worst bills Congress has ever passed. It was a reckless spending spree that caused the inflation crisis wreaking havoc on the American economy,” Mike Berg, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Friday about the inflation numbers.
He was referring to a $1.9 trillion law that Democrats passed mostly along party lines last year that, among other things, provided financial assistance through stimulus checks, enhanced unemployment benefits and expanded some tax credits, including the child tax credit.
Unrig Our Economy conducted nationwide polling in February and plans to poll again after the ads run to test whether the message, which will be run in television, digital and mail ads, resonates with voters.
While Bacon, Hinson, Malliotakis and Valadao are all in competitive races — Valadao’s is rated a Toss-up by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales — the group is looking past November and wants to show whether the messaging could be useful in turning the political tables in the 2024 campaign cycle. The campaign will include television on both cable and broadcast, digital and mail ads.
The February poll of 3,029 registered voters found that people were more likely to attribute a message of “when the middle class does better, America does better” to Republicans.
“We need to say corporations and the wealthy are rigging the economy against working people. Republicans are enabling them. Democrats are going to fight for you, and to be clear, and show up and use the rhetoric that is a little bit more aggressive, is a little bit more populist,” Baron said.