With the Nov. 6 election just a week a way, the war of words in the already confrontational campaign for the 7th District U.S. House seat is escalating with the release of new ads — challenging the incumbent on women’s reproductive rights and countering the challenger on taxes and taxpayer funding for political campaigns.
The pointed media battles between incumbent Republican Rep. Eric Cantor and Democratic challenger Wayne Powell underscore the seriousness with which both sides are taking the fight.
Nevermind that both candidates’ ads appear to distort the positions of the opponent — or that campaign accuses the other of lying. When it comes to campaign commercials, balance usually gets in the way of a clever attack.
While Cantor, a six-term incumbent, has a comfortable lead in the polls in the heavily Republican district and a cash advantage of millions, his camp wants a strong showing this November to bolster his standing as the second most powerful congresman in the U.S. House.
Powell, a Midlothian lawyer and first time candidate, has been the spearhead of Democrat’s effort to challenge Cantor’ power in Washington and dent his political armour locally on issues of accessiblity and accountablity and conservative social policy positions.
The latest salvo is an ad released Monday by Democratic challenger Wayne Powell that shows a woman meeting with her doctor — and with a cardboard cutout of smiling incumbent Republican House Majority leader Eric Cantor standing in the corner.
“What’s he doing here?” the woman asks her doctor.
“Eric Cantor?,” says the doctor. “He thinks members of congress like him ought to make your family i decisions and decide what your insurance should pay for,” the doctor responds.
“Can’t we get rid of him?” the woman says later in the ad. “…He’s creeping me out.”
The ad is a reference to Cantor’s support for legislation earlier this year that would have allowed religious groups or any employer with moral objections to opt the Obama administration’s new contraception coverage rule. The rule withstood a court challenge, and the Republican-sponsored House legislation failed in the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate.
The Powell ad also attacks Cantor saying he supported a controversial anti-abortion bill proposed by Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, who had suggested that women could not get pregnant in a “forcible rape.” But Cantor’s camp pointed out that it was Cantor who changed the Akin bill and removed the “forcible rape” language from the bill.
“Powell wouldn’t know the truth, if the truth walked up and shook his hand,” said Cantor strategist Ray Allen.
Cantor opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or if the health of the mother is in jeopardy. Powell supports women’s rights to choose an abortion, and on Monday his campaign issued women’s rights pitch from actress Madeleine Stowe (Revenge, Last of the Mohicans) seeking support.
Meanwhile, in an almost Seinfeldian twist, Cantor has hit Powell with a political ad about… political ads.
The 30-second spot uses black and white footage of an emphatically gesturingPowell juxtaposed with televisions featuring generic politicians making campaign pitches like used car salesmen.
“Tired of all those political ads?” the narrator asks. “Wayne Powell thinks you should pay for them. Wayne Powell supports taxpayer funding of political campaigns, and he’s called for higher taxes to pay for it.”
In fact, taxpayers already fund campaigns — the national campaigns for president. The ad plays off other Cantor ads that paint powell as a tax-happy liberal, equating the candidate’s general support for Obama’s health care act and the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to what it says will be an increased tax burden.
Cantor is also running an ad touting his plan for a 20 percent tax cut for small businesses — a proposal that was already shot down in Congress.
“More lies from Cantor,” Powell strategist Dave “Mudcat” Saunders said in response. “The next thing you know Cantor will be sending out mailers saying Wayne supports visas for terrorists.”
That has not happened, but Cantor’s camp has gone postal — sending out mailers referencing Powell’s recent trouble with the Virginia State Bar, where a complaint is pending against him over his handling of a worker’s compensation case and accompanying lawsuit in Virginia Beach several years ago.
The mailer appears in the form of a manilla file folder under the heading: “Should Wayne Powell LOSE HIS LAW LICENSE for Unethical Activity?”
Powell has said the Virginia Bar complaint is baseless and politically motivated. He noted that a judge presiding in the case dismissed similar misconduct allegations when the case was in court.
Powell has not used the mail, but the campaign has purchased television and radio time over the next week to re-run earlier ads in addition to the women’s health spot.
One commercial features a congressman trying to answer his cell phone but mistakenly picking up wads of money — a reference to the millions Cantor has raised from the pharmacetical, finance and oil industries.