Candidates Won’t Admit They’re Running for Congress in Campaign Ads

By
WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 12:  A sign that reads "Congress, You're Fired!" is seen during a rally on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol Building on September 12, 2010 in Washington, DC.  Members of the Tea Party and other activists gathered at the "Remember In November" Rally to protest large government and rally for conservative principals nearly two months before US midterm elections.  (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)
Sorry, we don't know anyone by that name. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/2010 Getty Images

Those running for Congress this year are faced with a problem: Tradition (and common sense) dictates that they mention what office they're seeking in their ads. However, in the 30 or so seconds they have to win over voters, no one wants to bring up a legislative body known for its ineffectiveness, abysmally low approval ratings, and tendency to kill enjoyable Internet memes. That's why candidates across the country are turning to a new strategy. They hope that omitting words like Congress, senator, and representative from commercials will encourage voters to elect them to take on the fat cats in some vague location where laws come from.

According to the Washington Post, this high-stakes version of Taboo isn't limited to first-time office-seekers. Even incumbents are touting their homespun values and promising to change things in Washington, without mentioning that they've already had several terms to accomplish that task. For example, in a recent ad, Martin Heinrich, a candidate from New Mexico, declares that the state's problems "won't be solved by the powers that be in Washington," without mentioning that he sort of is one of those powers. Heinrich has been a member of the House since 2009, and now he's running for Senate (that detail might be easy to miss, since the word "Senate" only appears in tiny fonts at the end of the ad).

Congressional approval ratings have actually been up in recent months, but a jump from 10 percent to 17 percent isn't all that impressive. Republican strategist and admaker Mark McKinnon tells the Post, “The best and only thing candidates can do is to vigorously point out every reason why you are not like the rest of your colleagues.” It's too bad that incumbents have rejected "do things that make people hate us less" as a campaign strategy.