Hogan, RGA Maintain Air Assault on Jealous in an Attempt to ‘Define’ Him Early

The Republican Governors Association has just hit Maryland airwaves with its second ad of the gubernatorial campaign, an attack on the health care proposals put forward by Democrat Benjamin T. Jealous. The spots, and one produced online by incumbent Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), are part of an effort to create an early, negative impression of Jealous in the public eye, and to slow his fundraising, according to observers of the contest. The new RGA ad, called “Fire,” hits Jealous for his proposal to have the state adopt a “Medicare-for-all” health system. In the spot’s opening moments, $100 bills are seen burning in a fireplace as a female announcer intones: “If tax-and-spend Ben Jealous wins, you might as well do this to your money.” The first RGA ad, titled “Big Spender” and launched two weeks ago, accused Jealous of not knowing the cost of his education plank. In an audio clip of the candidate speaking at an event during the primary, he is heard to say: “The exact cost will be tallied up by the legislative analysts when I’m governor.” A screenshot of a TV the Republican Governors Association is running that attacks Benjamin T. Jealous, the Democratic nominee.  The Hogan campaign released an online ad on July 21 that also attacked Jealous’ health care proposal, accusing the Democrat of wanting to “experiment with your health care, and your money.” Analysts see twin motivations in the hard-hitting Republican attacks — to define Jealous early in his general election battle with Hogan, and to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of would-be donors. “What they are trying to do is keep people from giving him money, because everyone is going to be saying ‘let’s wait and see,’ said Todd E. Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College.  “They also want to force Jealous to be in a position where he has to spend the money [he’s raising now] almost as soon as he’s bringing it in to defend himself, so that come October, he doesn’t have the money to compete, whereas Hogan is going to be all over the airwaves.” Eberly said President Obama’s re-election campaign used a similar tactic in 2012 against Republican Mitt Romney, soon after he won the GOP nomination. “The Obama campaign committed somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million, [in] Rust Belt states, to run ads, telling voters Mitt Romney is basically a multi-millionaire who goes in, buys businesses [and] closes ‘em down and takes away people’s jobs,” Eberly said. “Romney had no money to counter it and in this crucial part of the Electoral College the Obama folks spent months defining Romney in a way that Republicans — working-class Republicans — would not vote for him. And it was key to them winning.” To some Democrats, however, the GOP air assault is a sure sign that Hogan strategists must be feeling more nervous about November than their public displays of confidence would suggest. “The RGA attacks simply are a sign of weakness. They are the first ones to go negative,” said Travis N. Tazelaar, Jealous’ campaign manager. “They’re running internal polls too … and both Hogan and the RGA decided to go negative. Why would you go negative if your positive message is moving voters?” Scott Sloofman, communications director for the Hogan campaign, said, “It is understandable that Ben Jealous is upset that someone is calling him out for his plan to raise taxes on every man, woman and child in Maryland. His better bet would be to stop complaining… and start being honest… that his promises are irresponsible, unworkable and unaffordable.” After the Hogan ad begin airing last week, Democrats accused him of siding with insurance companies and pharmaceutical firms against consumers.  “Of course Larry Hogan and the RGA are trying to mislead voters about Ben Jealous’ plan to lower healthcare costs in Maryland — the governor’s campaign is funded by the very people who profit from the status quo,” said state party Chairwoman Kathleen Matthews.   “The truth is: under Hogan, healthcare premiums for working families in Maryland have more than doubled while the governor watched Donald Trump sabotage Marylanders’ healthcare. This latest political ad is more proof Larry Hogan’s priorities are wrong for Maryland, and he has become just another politician working for his corporate backers.” The Maryland Democratic Party released campaign finance records reflecting the $8 million in donations that insurers and “Big Pharma” have funneled to the RGA. But Democrats have also taken plenty of money from health care interests over the years. The RGA wouldn’t provide details of its strategy in Maryland, but Communications Director Jon Thomson said that it “is a large buy… running nearly statewide, on both broadcast and cable… and will ensure that Maryland voters understand exactly what Ben Jealous is proposing with his radical plans.” Former Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) conceded that the anti-Jealous ads “are hurting him” but aren’t likely to be a difference-maker this far from Election Day. “He’s a fighter, he’s well organized and he’s got some groups of his own,” Glendening said. In addition, the former governor said, “It’s the summer and 90 percent of the public doesn’t care [about politics now]. So, yes, there’s some injury, but they’re nicks that cause some distraction. They’re not mortal.” [email protected]

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