House GOP Ad: Hey, We're Actually Accomplishing Things While the Media Fixates on Russia

Posted: Aug 08, 2017 10:30 AM

One of the ongoing challenges confronting Congressional Republicans is that press coverage of President Trump sucks up nearly every gasp of political oxygen in Washington, leaving members on the Hill struggling to drive messages or trumpet achievements.  House leadership sporadically attempts to cut through the clutter with a "hey, we're doing things!" narrative push, and the new video that landed in my inbox yesterday represents the latest entrant in that genre.  It's shrewd for a number of reasons, which we'll touch on momentarily.  But first, here's the video itself:

The framing of the web ad lobs a two-fer at frustrated GOP voters: It criticizes the media for obsessing on Russia and hyping 'chaos' (it's no accident that the news clips selected to illustrate this point are pulled from MSNBC and CNN), while also running through a laundry list of largely-ignored legislation that has advanced out of the lower chamber -- punctuated by a montage of presiding speakers announcing "the bill is passed."  To supplement the video above, Republicans offer an accompanying "did you know?" quiz, designed to underline the extent to which MSM coverage is devoted to negative stories and controversies, as opposed to a host of proactive accomplishments that Republicans bemoan as having gotten short shrift (with one exception being passage of the American Health Care Act in May -- which only serves as an emotional dagger to conservative voters, given how that push ultimately turned out down the hall).  Allahpundit reasons that more than anything else, House Republicans are trying to buck up an exasperated and demoralized GOP base that may be teetering dangerously over the question of whether there's any point in faithfully showing up to pull the lever for Team Red when nothing seems to get done:

A core problem for the GOP next fall will be answering the question, “Why should I vote for these guys again?” This is an early attempt to answer it...This has been a “do nothing” Congress, by and large, and is likely to remain that way; this spot is aimed at convincing Republican voters not to hold the House responsible in apportioning blame, in case they’re thinking of staying home next year. More broadly, though, I think it’s a hedge against the risk of Russiagate spiraling out of the party’s control and leaving congressional Republicans stranded while Trump fights off Mueller. If Russiagate gets worse before the midterms, this sort of pitch — we’re thisclose to enacting all sorts of laws GOP voters will like! — may be the only thing that gets demoralized voters out to the polls. Don’t focus on Trump and scandal, the ad is saying, focus on the agenda. That’s what House Republicans are doing.

Exactly.  That's one central component of the base motivation game; the other is exploiting every utterance from elected Democrats about impeachment.  The GOP wants to remind its policy-minded voters that they're at least trying to enact conservative policies, which Democrats would never do, and to warn Trump loyalists that a Pelosi-controlled House would likely pursue the I-word.  Let's face it, though: The former point would be a lot easier to hammer home with a big, signature legislative victory.  If it's not going to be healthcare, it'd better be tax reform.  Whiffing on both big ticket items would depress Republicans, threaten economic and market gains, further embolden 'The Resistance,' and cement an image of dysfunctional impotence among swing voters.  If virtually everyone concludes that Republicans can't govern, Democrats' alienating unpopularity probably won't be enough to stave off an anti-Trump wave.  

Nevertheless, don't underestimate the extent of the mess in which Democrats are still mired.  After last week's party switch in West Virginia, Republicans now control a remarkable 34 out of 50 governorships (68 percent!), tied for an all-time high.  Even if Democrats chip away at that number this November and next, they've dug themselves quite a hole -- and don't forget that some of the most popular chief executives in the country are Republicans who govern blue states.  Democrats have unpopular leaders, no discernible agenda, continued issues with key voting blocs, and putrid messaging.  I'll leave you with this eye-opening statistic from elections guru Dave Wasserman, which touches on the distinct possibility of Republicans gaining Senate seats in 2018, even if Trump's nationwide approval ratings remain in rough shape: