Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was ecstatic when Joe Biden was declared president-elect, telling a celebrating Brooklyn crowd on Saturday that the Senate would be next to flip blue.
“Now we take Georgia, then we change America!” Schumer said.
But it’s Republicans who have been cheering ever since.
For four days, the video clip of Schumer has ricocheted through conservative social media and Fox News as a symbol of the stakes in Georgia’s doubleheader Senate runoffs, which would flip the chamber if Democrats win both seats. And now, the clip is featured in the first Republican attack ad of the runoffs, a spot financed by the newly elected chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida.
The Schumer-bashing ad marks a new chapter in Republicans’ battle to keep the Senate, as they subtly acknowledge that President Donald Trump lost reelection and make the argument that divided government is needed to stop Democrats from monopolizing Washington’s lawmaking levers under a Biden presidency. Biden leads in Georgia pending a recount, but the state still leans to the right of the nation. And now Schumer is getting a turn as the cautionary liberal in Republican ad campaigns, after a decade of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi featuring in the GOP’s battleground district playbook.
The new Georgia ad doesn’t mention Biden by name, nor does it mention Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock or the incumbent Republicans they face: Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, respectively. Instead, the ad is solely focused on Schumer, a liberal New Yorker, and shadowy unnamed “radicals.” Loeffler also featured Schumer, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in a social media ad on Tuesday.
“It’s possible that Chuck Schumer will become a household name in Georgia,” Scott’s adviser, Curt Anderson, wrote in an email to POLITICO that described Schumer as a “carnival barker.” Anderson added: “That will not be good for him.”
“It’s amazing that the thinks his ‘take Georgia’ to ‘change America’ slogan will work in January in Georgia,” Anderson continued. “Do the people of Georgia want to give the crazy left control of all the levers of power in Washington? Not a chance.”
In the new 30-second spot set to air statewide starting Thursday, Scott plays the clip of Schumer and then warns that Democratic change means cutting police budgets, eliminating private health insurance, packing the Supreme Court and chipping away at religious freedoms and gun rights.
Georgia Democrats call the ad an exercise in deceptive fear-mongering in the Jan. 5 races.
“This is to excite Trump voters to come out by scaring them with lies,” said DuBose Porter, the former Georgia Democratic Party chair. “Neither Jon nor Raphael are for defunding police. It’s a lie.”
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s spokeswoman, Lauren Passalacqua, said the ad is “D.C.-driven nonsense from Republicans” that distracts from Loeffler’s embrace of QAnon conspiracy theorists and Perdue’s campaign of “racist tropes.”
“They both used their early knowledge of coronavirus to profit off the pandemic while downplaying the public health threat to Georgians,” Passalacqua said.
“I don’t think that ad matters at all,” Ossoff said to a group of reporters after a drive-in rally in Columbus, Ga., Wednesday night. He said he hoped to have the opportunity to work with Schumer to “get things done for Georgia” like providing resources to the area’s hospitals, health clinics and military base.
“I won’t hesitate to stand up to Sen. Schumer if I don’t think that he’s pursuing what’s in the best interest of my state,” he added.
Loeffler name-checked Schumer on the campaign trail Wednesday, putting the Georgia race in national terms.
"No way — Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, you’re not going to take Georgia," Loeffler said.
Scott hasn’t officially assumed his new role as leader of the GOP’s Senate election efforts after winning the NRSC role this week, and he is paying for the new ad through his own political committee, Let’s Get to Work. The Georgia ad resembles one Scott ran in Florida that sought to portray Biden, more of a moderate in his party, as a tool of the far left.
Scott is heading to Georgia on Friday, following a visit from fellow Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who campaigned there Wednesday for the Republican candidates. Vice President Mike Pence announced he’ll travel there soon.
Democrats are hoping that former President Barack Obama makes it down to drive turnout, but they’re not clamoring for Biden to make an appearance.
Both sides say they expect Trump to campaign in the state, even if he’s officially declared the loser after a pending recount.
“If Trump is not the central issue — the demon that Democrats can rally votes against — they may have a harder time polarizing the state and it reverts to normal,” said Newt Gingrich, the former Georgia congressman and House speaker.
“A Trump-Schumer contrast is much different from a Trump-Biden contrast,” he said. “The contrast we want is what Democrats will do in the Senate if they control it.”
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