BOISE - Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick has launched his first television commercial of the campaign season, while his Republican challenger, Raul Labrador, still hasn’t been able to hit the airwaves.
Minnick’s ad, the first of a series, began running on Monday morning throughout the 1st Congressional District, including in the Spokane TV market, in Lewiston and on North Idaho cable. In it, he focuses on his fiscally conservative voting record in Congress, including opposing many of the major initiatives of his own party’s leadership.
“A lifetime in business has taught me to count every penny, and worry about passing on debt to our kids,” Minnick says in the ad, as he walks through a lumberyard; he’s a former timber products CEO. “These values are rare back in Washington these days,” he said. “I’ve had to say ‘No’ far more than I’ve said ‘Yes.’”
The first-term Democrat continues, “I’ve said ‘No’ to more government spending, ‘No’ to President Obama’s big health-care plan, and ‘No’ to Wall Street bailouts. Because standing up to what’s wrong in Washington is right for Idaho.”
Jim Weatherby, political scientist emeritus at Boise State University, said, “It’s a pretty effective ad in terms of highlighting his fiscal conservatism, his independence, distancing himself from Obama and Washington, D.C. … I think he has a credible record here. … He campaigned as a fiscal conservative, and he’s voted generally as a fiscal conservative.”
Factcheck.org, the respected fact-checking organization run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, initially included Minnick’s new ad along with 10 others that it said Wednesday showed freshman Democrats falsely claiming to have voted against the Troubled Asset Relief Program bailout legislation, though that legislation actually passed before they took office. But the site quickly corrected its item to note that Minnick said he “said no” to Wall Street bailouts, not that he voted against them.
“We corrected it to be perfectly accurate,” Brooks Jackson, the organization’s director, said in an email. “I confess, that’s a distinction that escaped our notice when we first saw the ad.”
John Foster, Minnick’s campaign manager, said Minnick was a “loud” opponent of the TARP bill during his 2008 campaign, spoke out against it in congressional hearings since taking office and voted against other bailout measures, including a symbolic vote against funding TARP and a vote against an auto industry bailout. “What Walt said in the ad is true,” Foster said. “He’s been consistent.”
Labrador attacked Minnick’s new ad in a news release, saying, “Walt Minnick might be saying ‘No,’ but I want to go to Washington, D.C. to say ‘Yes’ to a positive conservative agenda.” Labrador added, “I can tell you what Walt Minnick did not say ‘No’ to - he did not say no to Nancy Pelosi for speaker, he did not say no to Barack Obama for president.”
Minnick’s ad is so hostile to his party’s leadership, however, that when he talks about health care, the screen shows a rather unflattering photo of Obama with a large NO across his shoulder.
“His voting record is pretty clear - he strongly disagrees with a lot of what his party’s leadership and the president have put forth on the nation’s agenda, along with a lot of Idahoans,” Foster said. “So it’s not anything to shy away from. It is what it is.”
Weatherby said it’s a “major problem for the Labrador campaign, not to be able to have any ads out.” Labrador has badly lagged Minnick in fundraising; his campaign spokeswoman had no comment Wednesday on when or if his campaign would launch TV ads.
Foster said, “It’s no secret it takes money to buy television ads, and to raise money as a congressional candidate you need support. And Walt has a phenomenal level of support from a wide collection of folks.”