GOP Senate candidates in Arizona embrace Trump

GOP candidates are echoing President Trump leading up to Arizona's Senate primary election that will pick a Republican nominee for the seat currently held by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who is retiring.

Posted: Aug 28, 2018 2:19 PM
Updated: Aug 28, 2018 2:39 PM

Health care was the top issue referenced in campaign advertisements ahead of the US Senate primaries in Arizona and Florida on Tuesday, driven largely by Democratic messaging.

The focus on health care illustrates the Democrats strategy to largely avoid messaging around President Donald Trump's scandals in Washington and instead drive home issues they believe resonate more with voters.

In Arizona's Republican Senate primary, the candidates' efforts to tie themselves to Trump were on full display in TV ads.

Immigration and security have also colored ads in the Arizona race, and entitlements, taxes, and term limits have been points of emphasis in Florida.

Over $42 million worth of TV advertising has blanketed the airwaves in the two states through the week of August 28.

Arizona

A CNN analysis of Kantar Media/CMAG ad data shows how Republicans in Arizona's competitive Senate race have focused on immigration and security issues in their TV advertising, while also emphasizing their pro-Trump bona fides. Those were the top three TV ad themes by spending through the week of August 21 -- "immigration" ($2.45 million), "pro-Trump" ($1.77 million), and "public safety" ($1.58 million).

One of the top ads from Rep. Martha McSally touches on all of these themes, particularly the race to be the most "pro-Trump" candidate. It's a critical issue for McSally, the establishment favorite, and a former Trump critic who is facing a robust Republican primary contest against two outsider candidates -- Kelli Ward and Joe Arpaio -- in the mold of Trump who have adhered to his brand of politics and seized on polarizing immigration issues.

In the spot, McSally says she's "working with President Trump to secure our border and keep Arizona families safe," promising to "crack down on sanctuary cities," "enforce the law," and "build the wall" on the US-Mexico border. The ad features a clip of Trump praising "my friend Martha McSally," and an Arizona Republic piece declaring McSally "Arizona's most reliable vote for the Trump agenda."

Another ad from One Nation, a pro-McSally conservative outside group, also focuses on immigration and security issues. "They illegally cross our border -- criminals, violent gang members, and drugs, putting us all at risk," a narrator says over images of the border and ICE agents, before praising McSally and fellow Arizona Rep. David Schweikert for their efforts on border security issues.

On the other side, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and liberal outside groups have made health care central to their messaging. Democrats have spent over $3.46 million on "health care" ads, with "taxes" ($1.58 million) and "veterans affairs" ($1.1 million) the second- and third-most discussed topics.

In one of Sinema's ads, she recounts her family's struggle with health care costs. "We were just kids when my dad lost his job. We lost our car, we lost our home, and we lost our health insurance. I know what it's like for a family to struggle to make ends meet," Sinema says in the spot. "Health care needs to be more affordable."

Meanwhile, Red and Gold -- a mysterious super PAC with links to Arizona Democrats that formed close enough to the primary date to avoid disclosing its donors until after the contest -- has been one of the most active outside groups in the race, spending over $1.6 million on a wave of ads targeting McSally that include a number of health care spots. In one of those ads, a couple from Oracle, Arizona, detail their struggle with health care costs.

"Every month I write a check for our health insurance. It's out of control," Kim Schweitzer says in the ad. "It hurts." Larry, her husband, references McSally's vote for the GOP attempt at repealing Obamacare, saying: "Martha McSally voted for this five-time cost increase for health insurance. I mean, I don't know how anyone can afford it. I don't get it, I don't know what Martha McSally is thinking."

Across advertisers from both parties in Arizona, "health care" was the top issue by spending ($4 million), followed by "immigration" ($2.7 million), "taxes" ($2.1 million), "public safety" ($2.1 million), and "terrorism" ($1.77 million) and "pro-Trump" ($1.77 million).

Florida

In Florida, as in Arizona, health care has been the dominant TV ad theme -- though Florida has seen more than three times the amount of TV ad spending so far, despite lacking a competitive Senate primary in a race expected to pit incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson against outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Across both parties, candidates and outside groups have spent $14.7 million on ads discussing health care (with $9.7 million of that total devoted specifically to ads about Medicare). Health care ad spending was ahead of "taxes" ($14.1 million), "Social Security" ($7.69 million), and "social issues" ($5 million) and "term-limits" ($5 million).

Broken down by party, Democrats have put the greatest emphasis on health care ($7.98 million), followed by "social issues" ($5 million), "call to action" spots ($2.9 million) and "Social Security" ($2.9 million).

For example, an ad from Senate Majority PAC, a leading Democratic outside group, features an ER doctor listing health care issues and criticizing Scott's policies as governor while praising Nelson's efforts. "We got an opioid crisis, a doctor shortage, seniors struggling to pay for care, but even with all that, Rick Scott vetoed millions in health care funds and refused federal health care funds that would have covered 750,000 Floridians. Bill Nelson took on the insurance companies, forcing them to cover people with pre-existing conditions," Dr. David Woolsey says in the spot.

And an ad from Majority Forward -- a group affiliated with Senate Majority PAC -- also hammers Scott for "veto[ing] nearly $200 million in health care funds" as governor, "slashing home health care for seniors and vaccinations for kids," and "cutting doctors at rural hospitals and treatment for opioid addiction" -- "instead, Scott backed his party and gave tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy," the ad's narrator says.

The Republican tax cuts, and tax policy generally, have been a key theme in GOP messaging in the Florida Senate race. Florida Republicans have spent $11.29 million on ads discussing taxes, while also stressing health care ($6.75 million) and "term-limits" ($5 million) -- a tactic conservatives have seized on to cudgel Nelson, a four-decade veteran of politics.

A top Scott ad hits Nelson over both the longevity of his Washington career and his opposition to tax cuts. "In 1978, the Ford Pinto was the best-selling small car in America, gas was 63 cents a gallon, and Bill Nelson was elected to Congress. Forty years later, a lot of things change, but Bill Nelson is still in Washington," a narrator says over a series of retro images. "349 times, he's voted for higher taxes."

Term-limits and Nelson's lengthy career are another recurring theme. An ad from New Republican PAC -- which has spent over $5 million on the ace so far -- ticks through Nelson's career, starting in 1972 when he was elected to the Florida legislature, and repeatedly criticizes him for liberal tax policies before closing with, "after 45 years, it's time to term-limit Bill Nelson."

The Republican approach to health care messaging in Florida, meanwhile, has been to target Democrats over the long-term viability of Medicare. One of Scott's ads argues that Democratic policies threaten the program's future: "You pay for Medicare your entire career -- your parents paid into Medicare their entire lives -- but Washington is letting Medicare crumble," a narrator says. "Bill Nelson voted to cut $716 billion from Medicare -- no wonder it's going bankrupt."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 448268

Reported Deaths: 6013
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin931011480
Ramsey40016739
Dakota33072340
Anoka30999364
Washington20164228
Stearns17871187
St. Louis13690241
Scott1195496
Wright11614104
Olmsted1048475
Sherburne821365
Carver694836
Clay653280
Rice606868
Kandiyohi554371
Blue Earth541033
Crow Wing482774
Otter Tail457167
Chisago452732
Benton420186
Winona389646
Douglas374166
Nobles370846
Mower365529
Goodhue347958
Polk328658
McLeod325345
Morrison311744
Beltrami310347
Lyon302236
Becker284939
Itasca284543
Isanti282841
Carlton280043
Steele27379
Pine266713
Freeborn245321
Todd231730
Nicollet224636
Brown215134
Mille Lacs214246
Le Sueur210015
Cass207623
Meeker199733
Waseca189316
Wabasha17083
Martin170026
Roseau165416
Hubbard149338
Redwood139727
Renville137539
Houston135913
Dodge13474
Chippewa131332
Cottonwood127218
Fillmore12355
Wadena120116
Rock110212
Sibley10857
Aitkin108433
Watonwan10668
Faribault105916
Pennington99215
Kanabec97818
Pipestone94423
Yellow Medicine93714
Murray8815
Jackson85610
Swift83418
Pope7385
Marshall70215
Stevens7018
Clearwater68514
Lac qui Parle65716
Lake63715
Wilkin6259
Koochiching59610
Lincoln4841
Big Stone4573
Unassigned43768
Grant4298
Norman4248
Mahnomen4107
Kittson37219
Red Lake3174
Traverse2503
Lake of the Woods1951
Cook1140

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 305606

Reported Deaths: 4278
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk45754449
Linn17795275
Scott15444163
Black Hawk13773236
Woodbury13016175
Johnson1211749
Dubuque11387150
Pottawattamie8992112
Dallas888671
Story869434
Webster469771
Cerro Gordo466768
Sioux455157
Clinton450361
Warren443938
Marshall427761
Buena Vista393429
Muscatine390477
Des Moines381841
Plymouth350368
Wapello344198
Jasper321959
Lee317130
Marion304952
Jones271349
Henry264330
Carroll255434
Bremer245048
Crawford231022
Boone218417
Washington217632
Benton209444
Mahaska193136
Jackson192031
Tama187757
Dickinson186026
Delaware173736
Kossuth173644
Clay168820
Wright164824
Fayette162322
Hamilton160029
Buchanan159923
Winneshiek155719
Harrison155162
Hardin154729
Cedar153219
Clayton151448
Butler148224
Page144715
Floyd139636
Cherokee139027
Mills136416
Lyon135332
Poweshiek132724
Hancock130224
Allamakee127928
Iowa125422
Calhoun12279
Grundy121226
Jefferson120724
Madison12039
Winnebago119429
Mitchell116234
Louisa115030
Cass113341
Chickasaw111612
Sac111215
Emmet110831
Appanoose110538
Union108822
Humboldt105519
Guthrie103024
Shelby102926
Franklin102418
Unassigned9310
Palo Alto9079
Montgomery85622
Keokuk85026
Howard84219
Monroe81218
Clarke7957
Pocahontas77611
Ida74630
Greene6927
Davis69121
Adair68820
Lucas6508
Monona64016
Osceola6409
Worth6113
Taylor5949
Fremont5126
Van Buren49712
Decatur4894
Ringgold4389
Audubon4158
Wayne41421
Adams2963
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