Thom Tillis is in trouble and his backers know it. Despite massive amounts of money thrown at his candidacy from outside support groups he still hasn’t been able to break Kay Hagan’s consistent three point lead. With the possibility of a Republican takeover of the Senate becoming less and less likely, conservative interest groups now seem to be resorting to desperate measures to try and pull off a win. I saw the most recent evidence, just last night.
Like many Americans I got rid of cable several years ago and now get a lot of my TV from streaming internet services. I was watching Hulu last night, and saw not one, but two different ad spots supporting Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh. This is odd in itself, because political campaigns rarely advertise there (with the exception of the President in 2012). The ads looked very homespun, and only really got my attention because the message of the first one was “Get Haugh, Get High” with young people holding up pictures of marijuana while wearing tie-dyes and Bob Marley T-Shirts, which seemed a little outlandish even for a Libertarian candidate. The second ad positioned Haugh as the anti-war candidate, and labeled Hagan as a “War Monger” literally labeled, right over her picture. That was when I read the ‘paid for’ tags on the bottom of the ad.
The ads were paid for by the American Futures Fund, a 501(c)4 organization started in 2008 by several members of Mitt Romney’s first presidential primary campaign staff. The organization claims to promote “Conservative, free-market ideals.” In reality the organization spends the majority of its money attacking Democratic candidates. According to Opensecrets.org, during the 2013-2014 cycle, AFF has spent 84% of its money attacking Democratic candidates and 16% supporting Republicans (scroll down on that link for a nice graph illustrating this).
Conservative interests must be pretty sure that Thom Tillis can’t win at this point to try a play like this. These ads are a last minute attempt to swing youth support towards Haugh in order to chip away at Hagan’s base. I have to admit that putting them up on Hulu is pretty clever, both because its viewer base skews fairly young, and because it’s a good way to fly the ads under the radar. This doesn’t take away from the fact that the plan itself is pretty ridiculous, I mean seriously, they’re trying to appeal to the stoner vote. With Hagan continuing to lead and running a solid ground game to make sure they all turn out, Republicans are turning to Hail Mary plays, because at this point, they’re just plain desperate.
Author’s Note: I scoured YouTube and the internet trying to find a link to the actual ads I saw, but couldn’t find anything. If anyone else has seen these ads or finds links to videos of them, please comment or put the link in the comments section.