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June 22, 2012

Many lawmakers not mentioning word 'Congress' in campaign ads

Across the country, something is missing from the campaign ads of men and women running for Congress: the word "Congress."

Likewise, "Senate," "senator" and "representative" are making only rare cameos in these campaign ads. The absence is especially pronounced in the case of incumbents who are asking voters to re-elect them in November.

"How do you go from working in a family seed business in Iowa to fighting for Iowans at the highest levels?" a narrator intones in an ad for Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa.

The highest levels of what, exactly? The ad notes that Latham took "Iowa common sense" to Washington and voted against the stimulus package — but never exactly spells out that he has served at the highest levels of the U.S. government — in Congress — since 1995.

There are years when incumbents can tout their experience and legislative achievements as they seek re-election. This is not one those years, as the approval ratings of the gridlocked Congress have begun to approach the popularity of pond scum among an increasingly disenchanted electorate.

The result is that consultants and strategists who run congressional campaigns appear to be employing some artful ad copy to avoid mentioning that their candidates are members of Congress. "They don't use their title. They don't refer to their years of service. They don't show pictures of themselves in committee meetings," said Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan congressional analyst, explaining the incumbent-as-outsider strategy. "They have to acknowledge the anger, the frustration. They've got to run as agents of change," he said.

Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., who is running for the Senate, appeared in a campaign ad earlier this year with his mother, Francie.

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