Just plain desperate

by | Oct 22, 2014 | 2014 Elections, Features, US Senate | 15 comments

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.


  1. tom holder

    See the Randy Owens ad for Thom Tillis for U.S. Senate in North Carolina? News flash people – Randy (who’s claim to fame and massive political insight is that he is the former lead singer with Alabama) has absolutely NO connection with North Carolina. If recent history follows, Republicans will probably post this same ad in other southern states with only the candidate and state names changed. Richard Petty posted a similar ad for Tillis. It’s clearly aimed at “Joe 6-pack” and is insulting to voter intelligence! This kind of 8th grade Republican b.s. shows their desperation!

  2. MissyT in NC

    i’ve seen the ads several times and at first I though it was a joke. I’m voting, but at this point I’m so disgusted with my fellow Americans, that I feel they should get the government they deserve. Obviously we’ll have to go back to before FDR policies were in place and then they might get it – no social security, no medicare, no public schools, no welfare, goodbye 40 hour week and vacation for the hourly. People grouch about the welfare state while trying to figure out how to keep mom and dad’s money and still get medicaid to pay for mom and dad’s nursing home bills. You want to see buyer’s remorse – read about the republican parents in Jefferson County. That’s the future for the rest of this country. Vote in republican radicals and live to regret it.

  3. Maisimai

    I saw the ads on Hulu Plus a few nights ago. The shows I was watching definitely would have skewed younger and more disaffected. I mentioned them to my spouse, because I was surprised that Haugh or his supporters had the money to run ads.

  4. Lee Mortimer

    “With the possibility of a Republican takeover of the Senate becoming less and less likely” . . . I hadn’t heard that!

  5. Todd Morman

    Matt, I think you’re off-base in thinking absurd ads like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g1WGNSh4oY (“Get Haugh! Get High!”) are aimed at young liberals. They’re clearly aimed at making Haugh look ridiculous to old conservatives. I think it’s stupid either way, since Haugh will almost certainly get fewer votes than he’s currently polling (isn’t that the norm for longshot candidates in races like this?), but you missed the boat here a bit.

    • Matt Phillippi

      Thanks for reading Todd. Its certainly possible that youre right, but for me the ads have more of a desperately out of touch adults trying to seem cool, than driving older voter away. And yes, Libertarian candidates typically pull around 2-3% of the overall vote, and most of those voters only vote Libertarian.

  6. traderjohn

    You just have not been paying attention. “More weed less war” really is the natural Libertarian politics. R and D need to compete for those voters rather than ridicule them.

    The Koch brothers were early supporters of the Libertarian party. They are returning to their root.

    • Matt Phillippi

      John, thanks for reading. I do realize that legalization and anti-war are both planks in the Libertarian platform, and I had no intention to ridicule Libertatians. My point was that these ads were a cynical ploy by a group that was simply using Mr. Haugh’s candidacy to attack Hagan.

      Also if you notice, I made no mention of the Koch brothers in my article, as I feel that the why on this issue is considerably more important than the who.

  7. oldladycitizen

    LOL! Looks like the R’s have taken a page out of the D’s playbook.

  8. Not an NCer

    I didn’t think the ads were trying to attract the stoner vote but trying to push Rs back to Tillis by making Haugh out to be the progressive, stoner candidate and therefore unacceptable to Republicans.

  9. Matt Phillippi

    Thanks for reading everyone. Special thanks to Justin for posting the site. The second ad over is the one I saw last night.

  10. Troy

    It’s called “win at any price.” Those with a military perspective would call it “total war.” Either way, it’s pull out the stops, say anything, do anything to secure victory and if you can’t win outright, make sure your adversary pays dearly. Drain them down, make them use resources, weaken them for the next battle.

    The Tillis manifesto.

  11. Paleo Tek

    Buh-buh-but wait! You’re saying the Koch brothers (AFF is reportedly Koch affiliated) are dropping cash on Hulu to turn out stoners for the Libertarian candidate? Bwah-hah-hah!!! That’s rich. I agree, Matt, that’s a hail mary pass if ever there was one. But it’s quite the fascinating item, thanks for sharing.

    It’s all about turnout at this point. I doubt Hulu has much potential to affect that.

    WNC atty, it might be your geographic location, or it might be that your shows just weren’t hipster enough. It’s trivial nowadays to target adds at very narrow demographics. Maybe Matt was watching The Big Lebowski! ;^)

  12. WNC atty

    Interesting. I watched Hulu Plus last night and did not see the Haugh ad.

    But I did see the same Tillis ad at least twice: with Thom talking about how the campaign has been hard and mean, and neither he nor “Senator Hagan” are really as bad as the ads suggest, but that she’s a “rubberstamp” for Obama, etc. Struck as a bit of a non sequitur, or off-key, or something.

    FWIW, I’m in Asheville.

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