Democrats spending millions to defend against GOP’s crime cudgel

Democrats are pouring millions into a last-minute effort to neutralize their crime vulnerabilities — an issue they admit has sparked a flurry of effective Republican attacks in key contests.

Why it matters: The The momentum comes after a summer when the GOP’s attacks on inflation lost some momentum and Democrats harnessed a wave of much-needed dynamism from pro-abortion sentiment.

Send the news: After months of arguing with progressives, the House on Thursday passed four police laws, including grants to small local police departments to help with recruiting and training and legislation to fund technology to help close unresolved cases.

  • Vulnerable Democrats expressed hope the package would help them fend off GOP crime attacks. “It’s just more proof that all those attacks are insane,” said Representative Dan Kildee (D-Mich.).
  • “They’re on the hunt to talk about everything except women’s reproductive rights. I mean, they’ll talk about the weather before they talk about that,” Kildee added.
  • “I think it’s helpful to [swing seat Democrats]and I think they should be talking about it everywhere,” said Representative Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), who also lashed out at “members of our party who defame police officers as a whole.”

What is going on: In Wisconsin, a barrage of new ads from the Republican super PAC’s top senate has hit Democratic nominee Mandela Barnes for his support of ending bail. Barnes faces incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson.

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  • One of the spots shows the grandmother of a child who was hit by a car last year during an attack on a Christmas parade in Waukesha.
  • “Mandela Barnes does not support bail that puts criminals like Darrell Brooks back on the street,” the grandmother said. “He’s more concerned with criminals than victims.”

Zoom out: The Senate Leadership Fund ad, one of several to hit Barnes on his bail position, comes as Republicans across the country delve into the crime issue.

  • The National Republican Senatorial Committee is releasing a new ad this week featuring a similar attack on Barnes.
  • Pennsylvania Republican Mehmet Oz has criticized his Senate opponent, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, for his record as leader of the Pennsylvania Council of Pardons.
  • The Republican Association of Governors last week released ads targeting Democratic incumbents in Wisconsin and New Mexico on crime.
  • The Congressional Leadership Fund, Republicans’ top House super PAC, has placed ads in at least 10 races targeting crime and police funding in the past two weeks.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Virginia are rolling out another attempt to attack the vulnerable Democrat Rep. Abigail Spanberger on the crime issue.

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The other side: The political wing of Third Way, a centrist Democratic group, recognizes the party’s vulnerability to crime and says it will spend millions on ad spend defending frontline Democrats on the issue.

  • The group, Shield PAC, plans to drop about $700,000 each in at least seven House races to defend Democrats against crime and immigration, according to Matt Bennett, Third Way’s director of public affairs.
  • He called the crime attacks “false, but deadly” and specifically pointed to the “Moms for Safe Streets” ad.

Between the lines: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has been working with candidates this year to neutralize these types of attacks.

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  • Key to the party’s tactics are “validators” or law enforcement officers who can appear in ads that push back “defund” attacks, according to a DCCC strategy memo distributed to candidates early this year.
  • A large number of Democratic House candidates have heeded the advice, with local law enforcement ads appearing all summer long.

That’s exactly the approach Shield PAC also takes.

  • “Abigail Spanberger works to fund the police,” says the 30-second spot to defend her. It describes Spanberger as a “leading Democratic critic of the defund movement” and includes testimony from the chief of police of Culpepper, Virginia.
  • Shield PAC also runs ads seeking to bolster the law enforcement credentials of two other frontline Democrats, Representatives Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Kim Schrier of Washington.

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