TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Roger Marshall is using out-of-context clips from Democrat Barbara Bollier’s ads in a television spot in which his campaign argues that she’s trying to hide liberal views from voters, suggesting the GOP doesn’t have the race for an open U.S. Senate seat locked down yet in normally safe Kansas.
Bollier’s campaign and two Kansas political scientists argued Wednesday that Marshall’s ad is misleading because it uses video snippets of Bollier in attacking her for opposing abortion restrictions and for supporting gun control measures when she was speaking about other topics. Marshall has been running the ad online and statewide since Labor Day weekend.
Marshall campaign manager Eric Pahls said the ad is not deceptive because it opens with a narrator asking, “How would it sound if Barbara Bollier’s ads actually matched her liberal record?” Pahls said viewers are “smart enough to understand what they’re watching.”
But Bob Beatty, a Washburn University of Topeka political scientist, said his review of about 1,200 state political ads dating back more than 50 years indicates that Marshall’s move is a new tactic for Kansas.
“Of course it’s manipulative,” he said. Later, he added about viewers, “The vast majority aren’t really going to tune in to a narrator at the beginning.”
Marshall is a two-term congressman for western and central Kansas and his ad is part of a broader effort by Republicans to undercut attempts by Bollier, a Kansas City-area state senator, to attract moderate GOP and independent voters after switching to the Democratic Party at the end of 2018.
Republicans already face tough races in other states in trying to keep their 53-47 Senate majority, and a competitive race in Kansas would complicate their efforts. The GOP hasn’t lost a Senate race in Kansas since 1932, but Bollier has proven to be an unusually strong fundraiser.
University of Kansas political scientist Patrick Miller called the Marshall ad “arguably slimy.”
“This says that you’re in a close race and that you’re really desperate to get out of it,” he said.
Republicans are attacking Bollier for her strong support of abortion rights, which led her to vote against new abortion restrictions during her decade-plus in the Legislature. One recent GOP political action committee mailer calling her a “liberal extremist” on the issue.
The Marshall ad criticizes Bollier for voting against 2015 legislation to ban a common second-trimester procedure designated in the measure as “dismemberment” abortion, with a clip of Bollier saying, “That’s what I believe in my heart.” The clip comes from Bollier’s October 2019 announcement video and followed her call for bipartisanship in Washington.
The Marshall ad also cites a 2014 statement from Bollier to a local newspaper about gun issues to suggest she supports a ban on guns, with a clip of her saying, “I’ll work to ban them nationwide.”
Bollier spokeswoman Alexandra De Luca called that section of the ad “particularly egregious.” Bollier’s statement expressed support for background checks for all gun purchases and allowing cities and counties to enact their own gun restrictions. Bollier backed limits on the types of guns available to the public “specifically” when it comes to large-capacity ammunition magazines. The video snippet of Bollier is from a July ad in which she promises to work to ban surprise medical bills.
“His campaign doesn’t want to engage with Barbara directly on the issues in an honest manner and so they put words in her mouth and create a fictional Barbara, quite literally, that they run ads on,” De Luca said.
Pahls said if the Marshall campaign wanted to be “sneaky” it would have omitted the narrator’s introduction and the ad is “not hiding anything.”
“They’re unable to refute any of the substance of the ad, so they’re attacking style,” he said in a text to The Associated Press.
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