Rep. Troy Balderson (R) beat Democrat Danny O’Connor by a razor-thin margin (104,328 to 102,648) in an August special election in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District — which had given Republican Donald Trump an 11-point margin of victory less than two years earlier. Hoping to defeat him again for a full term in November, Balderson launched a new ad on Tuesday accusing O’Connor of being “just too liberal.”
But his pretzel-twist reasoning is a case-study in how not to source an attack ad.
The spot begins with a short clip of Balderson admitting to having approved the spot, followed by a brief clip of O’Connor proudly stating that he has spent “every bit” of his “adult life fighting for progressive values.” A narrator then asks how liberal O’Connor really is. After noting that O’Connor supported making Columbus, Ohio, a “sanctuary city” (citing a 2017 tweet), the ad makes the claim that O’Connor favors “giving illegal immigrants drivers’ licenses and in-state tuition, forcing us to pick up the tab.”
Regardless of the merits of treating undocumented kids brought to the United States through no fault of their own a chance to drive and go to college, the fine print at the bottom of the ad is the real star here.
Rather than cite any statements made by O’Connor in this or any previous campaign, in their summer debate, from O’Connor’s tenure as Franklin County Recorder, or from his time working in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, Balderson simply infers the position based on a multi-leap argument. It amounts to little more than “he’s a Democrat so he must believe that.”
Specifically, the fine print says that O’Connor had volunteered doing voter protection — ensuring that every citizen registered to vote can exercise that right — through the Ohio state Democratic Party’s voter protection center. Then, it argues, the Ohio Democratic Party “supports the 2016 Democratic National Convention platform” and that O’Connor’s declaration of candidacy as a Democrat means he ascribes to the party’s principles. That platform embraced comprehensive immigration reform and protections for DREAMers specifically including “efforts by states to make DREAMers eligible for driver’s licenses and in-state college tuition.”
Balderson’s notion that every Democratic candidate must automatically agree with every line in the Democratic platform — or every Republican in their platform — is a stretch, but it could be rooted in his blind loyalty to his own party’s leader. His voting record in the House shows he is one of the only representatives who has voted with President Trump a whopping 100 percent of the time.