(NewsNation) — Democratic campaign organizations have been spending millions on ads for Republicans whom they call “extreme,” or “fringe,” hoping if those “extremes” win their primaries, they’ll be easier to beat in November.
It’s a strategy drawing criticism from many Republicans, Independents and even from many other Democrats, who argue it’s not just wrong, but that it’s hypocritical to call someone a threat to democracy and then possibly help them get elected.
“John Gibbs is too conservative for west Michigan,” a political ad on YouTube reads out.
But take a closer look at this ad: “Gibbs called Trump the greatest president, and worked in Trump’s administration with Ben Carson.”
The ad works as if it is meant to target a Republican audience. But it’s not exactly an attack ad.
“A hard line against immigrants at the border. And so-called patriotic education in our schools,” the ad continues to narrate. The ad campaigns for Gibbs, stating the exact points Republican voters want to hear.
It’s a tactic Democrats used to boost Gibbs in his Michigan primary race for Congress. And some might say it worked, especially since he pulled off an upset win on Tuesday over his opponent, incumbent Peter Meijer.
But why would Democrats support Gibbs?
Because Democrats believe they have a better chance at beating Gibbs in November over Meijer.
But the video on Gibbs isn’t the first ad that ran with this strategy. They’ve implemented the tactic multiple times this cycle, propping up other candidates they see as more extreme and more beatable in November.
Republican sources told NewsNation that it’s risky, and some of those “extremes” may end up actually winning.
“They say Democrats are playing with fire here,” Julia Manchester from The Hill said. “Just painting a candidate as extreme on the 2020 presidential election isn’t necessarily enough to turn voters off to that candidate.”
“That ad was a negative ad, and I think it aired legitimate concerns,” Rep. Pete Aguilar said during a weekly House Democrats press conference, defending the strategy.
But many other Democrats actually slammed their own party over it.
“You run the risk of sending an extremist to the United States Congress. That’s an egregious misuse of Democratic resources,” Rep. Ritchie Torres said in an interview on ABC’s This Week.
In this case, it may have worked. Gibbs did pull off a close victory over Meijer, and now Gibbs will be the Republican on the ballot in November — as Democrats allegedly wanted.
There’s no way to definitely prove Democrats money is what pushed Gibbs to victory, especially since voters make their own choices. But the DCCC spent $425,000 on ads for Gibbs — more than his own campaign spent.
The campaign committee has done the same in races in California, Pennsylvania and other states.