But Republicans say it’s not enough to remind voters that Biden-era law enforcement policies have appeared more centrist than the left once hoped. They argue that Democrats have failed to grasp the reality on the ground, which hinges more on voter anxiety than on any bill.
“Whether it’s murders, violent crimes, they’ve all increased. Our leaders are well aware of this. You can see it with your own eyes,” said Lori Chavez-DeRemer, who is set to flip a blue seat in the Portland suburb where she spent eight years as mayor of Happy Valley, Ore.
“People pay their taxes. They expect to be safe,” the Republican added in an interview, noting that his progressive Democratic opponent Jamie McLeod-Skinner had previously aligned himself with groups that pushed to cut police funding after national unrest. about racial justice in 2020. “My adversary walking in these movements sends a very different message.
The Oregon race is one of many where rising crime rates, which have been widely attributed to the pandemic, are climbing higher on voters’ radar. Three-quarters of voters described the crime as a major problemaccording to a poll conducted by POLITICO-Morning Consult this month.
And bipartisan House campaign ad spending keeps pace: Since July 1, the Republican National Committee of Congress has run at least $4 million in general election ads on police-related topics or to crime, with the House GOP’s top super PAC running $12.1 million more. period, based on AdImpact totals. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has run $9.4 million in policing or crime ads since July 1, with the main House Democratic super PAC generating $5.6 million in that time.
The Democratic campaign arm and the super PAC have have primarily focused their ad spend nationally on abortion, largely linking GOP policies to the criminalization of women’s health care. Party operatives say their focus on abortion is justified, pointing out that tougher abortion restrictions the House GOP may consider after the disappearance of Roe vs. Wade are a very powerful problem for voters.
Democratic strategists also argue their candidates can balance that message with plans to respond to higher crime rates, pointing to GOP votes. against a new gun law intended to prevent further deaths. The party’s branch, DCCC, even gave its candidates a memo this spring on effective ways to neutralize GOP attacks, such as offering a strong rebuttal to “defund the police” and securing “an active or retired member.” of the forces of order” who can vouch for their support of the police.
That’s exactly what many at-risk Democrats have done, delivering their own forceful response to the defund attacks: cutting ads to tout their efforts to boost departmental resources, joining the police or hosting events with local officers and sheriffs.
The fact that “defund” was a rallying cry of a few liberals that never caught on with party leaders didn’t stop it from remaining a Republican cudgel. In addition to the broader GOP criminal attacks, “defund the police” ads have appeared in nearly a dozen battlefield seats since the summer, according to an analysis of internal ads. Several have linked Democratic candidates with more liberal representatives. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) or Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).
representing Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), which is run your own ad in its Flint, Michigan-area headquarters, with a county sheriff touting his plan to support local police, called the GOP attacks “fear-mongering.”
“It’s cynical, because the people who produce these ads know that’s not true. They also know that fear works,” Kildee said. But he also acknowledged that GOP successes leave a mark: “Those who have used that term ‘defund the police’ have done a terrible service, not just to communities, but to political debate.”
Some Democrats want their party to think even bigger in how they talk about their party’s response to crime. Amid a rise in gun crime, for example, Democrats say candidates should aggressively tout the recent bipartisan gun deal who is putting more money into violence reduction, or talking about the set of bills passed by the House that increase funding for law enforcement grants and training.
representing Josh Gottheimer (DN.J.), a battleground Democrat who has pushed his own party to improve its message on policing, is among those actively advocating for a more proactive message on crime. Visiting a fire station in his district last week, Gottheimer praised local officers for “combatting the recent increase in auto thefts.”
Along with a dozen firefighters, paramedics and police officers, he sought to deflate the common GOP line of attack: “We need to defund, not defund, law enforcement. We have to invest. »
Other Democrats, however, are being forced into the defensive as Republicans accuse them of backing controversial local policies that have failed to reduce crime rates. In New York, for example, GOP groups are spending big on a handful of swing chairs to highlight state bail reform efforts.
The three-year-old law revising New York’s bail conditions, once announced by progressives, is now dividing the state’s Democratic party. And it quickly became a central feature of GOP ads from Syracuse to the Hudson Valley to Long Island.
In a hotly contested seat in Syracuse, for example, GOP groups attacked Democratic candidate Francis Conole for backing bail legislation that “fuels crime” and “lets more criminals out.”
Conole later issued a direct rebuttal: his own ad talks about his family’s policing roots – his grandfather is a former county sheriff – who says, “We have to tackle violent crime head-on.”
The House GOP super PAC, Congressional Leadership Fund, is using the same tactic against the Democratic campaign leader. In a dark announcement last weekthe group accused Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (DN.Y.) to make it “easier for violent felons to get back on the streets” because of its support for bail reform. (His challenger, state legislator Mike Lawler, will campaign on bail reform on Tuesday alongside former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.)
And while House Democrats have spent weeks securing a package of police departments they could present on the trail, some architects of this deal recognize that tackling the root causes of crime is a much bigger fight. long.
“If you’re looking for real change, it has to be a longer-term process. It must be real. It has to be something that won’t be for the next election cycle,” Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Arizona), one of the party’s most vulnerable incumbents this fall.
O’Halleran, a Chicago cop in the 1960s, was part of the motley crew of centrists, progressives and Black Caucus members who helped push through the vote on tougher law enforcement bills this summer. But even with his own re-election looking shaky, he said he was not interested in using crime prevention as a campaign talking point.
Asked how the police bills help his race, O’Halleran objected, “It’s more in the political realm, not the real realm of how to solve a problem.”