How GOP nominees are attacking Democrats as 'soft on crime' with Fox News' help: report
Attacking Democrats as “soft on crime” has been part of the Republican playbook for many years. Back in 1988, George H.W. Bush’s presidential campaign — following the advice of GOP strategist Lee Atwater — dealt a major blow to Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis with the infamous Willie Horton attack ad and claims that Dukakis, as governor of Massachusetts, let violent crime run rampant in his state. It was an ad that Democrats attacked as racist, but one that Dukakis’ campaign never recovered from.
Now, in the 2022 midterms, Republicans are, according to Guardian reporter Ramon Antonio Vargas, using “soft on crime” claims to attack Democrats once again. In Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race, for example, Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Donald Trump-supported Republican nominee, has been attacking his Democratic rival, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, as soft on crime. Oz has been trailing Fetterman in the polls, but then, there were polls during the Summer of 1988 that showed Dukakis ahead of Bush 41 — that is, before Atwater’s messaging and the Bush campaign’s anti-Dukakis attack ads really took hold.
Democrats, Vargas notes, have been hammering Republican candidates relentlessly on abortion, and Republicans are hoping that midterms voters will be thinking about crime instead.
Vargas, in an article published on September 16, reports, “With most U.S. voters indicating that the preservation of abortion rights is their chief focus as midterm elections loom, the face of Fox News and Republican politicians appear to be trying to shift attention to crime, a progressive media watchdog has warned. As Democrats seek to maintain razor-thin advantages in both congressional chambers, an analysis from Media Matters for America notes that on 19 August, the highest-rated Fox News host, Tucker Carlson, implored ‘every Republican candidate in the United States’ to pitch themselves as favoring ‘law and order and equality under the law.’ Since then, the word ‘crime’ has appeared in 29 percent of Republican political ads, up from 12 percent in July, Media Matters said, citing reporting from the Washington Post.”
Oz, according to Vargas, is by no means the only Republican candidate who has been “attacking” Democrats “on criminal justice.” In Arizona, Vargas notes, Republican U.S. Senate nominee Blake Masters — who is up against incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, has slammed Democrats as “the party of crime.”
“Media Matters said it is not new for Republicans — who hailed the Supreme Court ruling in June — to fixate on crime and the concept of ‘law and order’ as a topic in national elections,” Vargas observes. “The left-leaning nonprofit pointed to a notorious ad about a convicted murderer, Willie Horton, that George H.W. Bush aired during his successful run to the Oval Office in 1988. The ad accused his Democratic rival, Michael Dukakis, of being soft on crime while Massachusetts governor because Horton raped a woman and robbed a man during a temporary furlough from prison in that state…. The analysis also found that Republican candidates have not clearly outlined what federal-level policies they would adopt to drive down crime.”
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