by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Nancy Pelosi has long been a favorite target of GOP attack ads. But Republicans seem to be taking it to another level in this election cycle.
The House Democratic leader has been featured in roughly one-third (34%) of all GOP broadcast ads aired in House races this year, according to data provided to the USA TODAY NETWORK by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG), which tracks political advertising.
That compares with 9% in all of 2016 and 13% in 2014.
“Obama’s departure and the lack of a Clinton presidency has left Pelosi as the de facto stand-in as head of the Democratic Party” and shorthand to Republican voters for “liberal big government,” said Erika Franklin Fowler, a Wesleyan University political scientist who co-directs the Wesleyan Media Project, which analyzes broadcast advertising in federal elections.
The key example of the strategy so far this year was the hard-fought special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, where 58% of GOP spots mentioned the San Francisco Democrat, according to CMAG.
In last year’s special election in Georgia’s sixth district (the most expensive US House race ever), 55% of Republican spots featured Pelosi.
The 2018 ad wars are still in their infancy, but “you’re going to see a lot of her,” said GOP pollster Gene Ulm of Public Opinion Strategies, calling Pelosi “the gift that keeps on giving.”