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Blue Dog Dem's TV ad hits Obama as part of "Washington crowd"

Must-watch video: Here's a sign that the immigration wars have made the issue a hot one even for Democrats in districts that aren't grappling with illegal immigration.

Blue Dog Dem Joe Donnelly of Indiana is up with a tough talking ad about illegal immigration that targets President Obama on the issue, deriding him as part of "the Washington crowd." Donnelly is being challenged by state Rep. Jacki Walorski in a contest that both sides view as a real race.

Donnelly's 30-second spot slips in the hit on Obama subtly and quickly: It flashes a picture of Obama with John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi and features Donnelly saying: "I don't work for them." The key moment starts at around the 18 second mark:

Strikingly, Donnelly's ad appears to hint that Obama and Dems don't oppose people getting "rewarded for breaking the law."

Donnelly rattls off all the tough measures he's taken against illegal immigration, explaining them this way:

"Because no one should be ever rewarded for breaking the law. That may not be what the Washington crowd wants. But I don't work for them. I work for you."

As Donnelly says the words "Washington crowd," we see Obama, Boehner and Pelosi.

A Dem strategist who advises candidates on their races tells me that this isn't an attack on Obama; rather, it's about achieving separation from all of Washington on illegal immigration. "He showed his independence in this ad by condemning Washington on the issue," the strategist said.

The spot is another mark of how successfully the anti-illegal-immigration camp has dragged the debate to the right and turned immigration into a hugely contentious national issue in unlikely places.

UPDATE, 3:27 p.m.: Donnelly's second district is not known for immigration problems, but a strategist familiar with the situation tells me that the issue plays heavily to the "union protectionists, which this district has a lot of." I've edited the above a bit.

By Greg Sargent  |  August 10, 2010; 2:54 PM ET
Categories:  2010 elections , House Dems , House GOPers  
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Last time I checked, illegal immigration actually affects every state in the U.S. (some obviously more than others), so why the shock? Check out the rest of the U.S. outside the Beltway, you might see a thing or two.

Posted by: jcannes76 | August 10, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Not surprising of you know Indiana's history.

I've been reading the absolutely fascinating "Last Call" by Daniel Okrent about the rise and fall of Prohibition. It was above all a culture war, pitting on the one side small-town and rural Protestants, populists, progressives, suffragists, nativists and racists (all overlapping categories) versus aristocrats, immigrants, big-city Dem machines and of course the distillers and brewers and to a much lesser extent vintners. The KKK was a valued member of the dry coalition because it demonized liquor for its bad effects on black men, but even more it demonized Catholics and Jews and immigrants of all non-nordic kinds. Indiana was a hotbed of Klan activity in the 1920s.

And speaking of hard-ball tactics, the very dry Congress understood full well the demographic changes that had taken place in the new century. To preserve the Volstead Act intact the dry majority REFUSED TO REAPPORTION CONGRESS after the 1920 census. That's right, they refused to account for the great growth of the cities and adjust the congressional districts allocated to each of the states. Despite what the Constitution said. They didn't pass a reapportionment bill until 1929, to take effect in the 1932 election. And according to Okrent, it seems to have gone mostly unremarked, given everything else that was happening.

The book is absolutely fascinating history and should be read by anyone interested in change-making political and social movements, cultural politics and hardball politics in general. Thank the gods things are much tamer now.

Posted by: Mimikatz | August 10, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

my understanding is that second district is largely rural with liberal south bend. seems like there's no reason for it to be a major issue there. anyone know more?

Posted by: Greg Sargent | August 10, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

So I'm sure Donnelly won't get any money from the DCCC, right?

Posted by: stonedone | August 10, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

It seems to be a very "Dems vs. Dems" day...

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | August 10, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

See, this is the kind of clown I hope loses. Not because he is running ads that are attacking his own President and party but because he is a member of the United States Congress. If he wants to fix immigration last I checked the only people who could really do that are the 435 members of the House of Representatives and the 100 members of the United States Senate. He is one of those people and if it is a problem he is one of the people responsible for it and has not fixed the problem.

If not being part of the Washington Crowd is the solution to immigration reform and it is a real issue in his district he deserves to lose becasue he is a US Congressman, he is the Washington Crowd.

Posted by: zattarra | August 10, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse


Few things more tiring than hearing politicians crow about "the Washington crowd/cabal/knitting party" when they want to desperately become a member. Dimes to donuts his opponent in the future, if he wins, will do the same.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | August 10, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse


"The spot is another mark of how successfully the anti-illegal-immigration camp has dragged the debate to the right and turned immigration into a hugely contentious national issue. "

I'm curious, can one tell when an issue has been successfully "dragged" in one political direction and "turned into" a national issue by a small interest group, and when that issue actually captures the nation's attention because most of the nation truly cares about and holds similar views about the issue on its merits?

Posted by: ScottC3 | August 10, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

The president of the united states is a Washington insider? Blasphemy....

Posted by: soapm | August 10, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

BTW, Greg...this was a curious formulation:

"...the anti-illegal-immigration camp ..."

Doesn't this imply that their opposition (ie you, Obama) should be characterized as the pro-illegal-immigration camp?

Posted by: ScottC3 | August 10, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Sure hope the door doesn't hit him in the ass too hard on his way out.

There are ways to achieve 'separation' that don't disparage your party. This jerk wasn't interested in those ways.

No Congressional seat for you!

Posted by: kindness1 | August 10, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse


Define "merits". I bet if the Faux News crowd all of the sudden started talking about the *decline* in illegal immigration for the last 10 years or seriously about punishing employers, those "merits" would take on a different hue.

Speaking of punishing employers, how about *that* bureacracy!

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | August 10, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

"my understanding is that second district is largely rural with liberal south bend. seems like there's no reason for it to be a major issue there. anyone know more?"

I live in South Bend. As far as I know there is NO immigration issue here. Donnelly is an a$$ for other reasons, including his vote against extending UI benefits and his vote FOR the odious Stupak amendment. But I think Jacki Walorski is a wingnut. No idea how competitive the race will be.

Posted by: msmollyg | August 10, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

And I wouldn't call South Bend exactly "liberal" -- lots of Christian righties here.

Posted by: msmollyg | August 10, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Notice that Donnelly fails to mention his party affiliation...

Posted by: sbj3 | August 10, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse


"Define "merits".

The factual content of a given matter or issue.

Sometimes Greg frames issues in terms of public opinion ("the people clearly prefer X") and at other times he frames them in terms of how an interest group is able to (in his view) manipulate public opinion ("the right has managed to drag the debate to the right"), which would presumably be something different in the absence of this manipulation. Not surprisingly, when he thinks public opinion agrees with him, he does the former, and when it disagrees, he does the latter. It is a fairly subtle propaganda technique, but certainly not one that the Plumline's resident propaganda, er, "expert" (Bernie L.) is ever likely to point out. So I thought I would do so.

Posted by: ScottC3 | August 10, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

All, the latest daft idea about Cordoba House:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | August 10, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

this is just delicious. I wonder if Obamacare covers medication for apoplexy!

Didja see the bronze bust of Abe in the background? Just finger licking good.

And Mr Sargent once again shows his bias. Of course illegal immigration is a national issue. What's the problem with that? And the only reason it is "hugely contentious" is because the Democrat power elite want something that the American citizens have soundly rejected.

And of course running against illegals is far easier than explaining unfortunate votes in congress. What's this guy's "Pelosi compliance rate"?

I don't think there will be much blow back from this at all. If he voted for Pelosi for speaker, and commits to doing so again, all will be well for him. He can try to bamboozle his district with the illegal stuff and then vote like a SanFran Dem when he gets back to DC. What's to worry?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | August 10, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse


"Pelosi compliance rate"? Well, prolly about the same as McConnell's or Boehner's...

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | August 10, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse


Bernie's posts are some of the best reasons to read this blog.

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Posted by: hunterlee0077 | August 11, 2010 2:49 AM | Report abuse

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