Pelosi and Her 'San Francisco Values'
Labels are the mother's milk of electoral politics, and while GOP congressional campaigns are already thinking of politically negative ways to refer to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), they can always fall back on the old standby in labeling Nancy Pelosi: "San Francisco liberal."
The first-ever female Speaker has been a target of conservative campaign ads and mailings for quite a while now, and you can expect to hear both her name and that of her adopted hometown (since her native Baltimore isn't nearly as effective) with increasing frequency as November approaches. Missouri GOP Rep. Sam Graves is getting an early start on the anti-Pelosi front, airing this ad against his Democratic opponent, former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes:
"In San Francisco, Nancy Pelosi's throwing a party for Kay Barnes," the ad's narrator says, over a groovy disco score. Barnes, it seems, subscribes to those notorious "San Francisco values," meaning: "Yes to same-sex marriage. Yes to abortion. Yes to amnesty for illegal immigrants."
During that recitation of liberal stances, the ad shows a multiracial trio dancing suggestively in front of a bar. The trio is comprised of a man wearing a cowboy hat and two women, one of whom has terrible hair. It's not clear whether the ad is implying that one or all of them are homosexual, abortion rights supporters or illegal immigrants. The ad could have gone further by actually showing a same-sex couple dancing, but it didn't.
Do these kinds of attacks work? Pelosi is certainly well-known to conservative activists and donors, so an ad like this could get Graves' base fired-up. Beyond that, it's not clear how many of Graves' northwestern Missouri constituents actually know who Pelosi is. The Speaker is rarely the subject of public opinion polls. One national survey taken in February gave her job performance a 25 percent positive, 57 percent negative rating. Another poll taken last July showed Pelosi with a 31 percent/35 percent favorable/unfavorable score as a "public figure," with 34 percent of respondents unsure of their answer or simply unaware of who she was.
Obviously, Republicans believe enough people know Pelosi -- and definitely enough know all about "San Francisco" -- that it's a smart move to spend campaign cash on linking Democratic candidates to the Speaker. Personally, Capitol Briefing's takeaway from that Graves ad is that Kay Barnes hangs out with people who like to drink and dance. Look for her support among college students to skyrocket.
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