- Republicans have long used Nancy Pelosi as their boogeyman in their pitch to voters, but that did not work in 2018.
- GOP lawmakers, political groups, and conservative media outlets are now focusing a considerable amount of time and resources on freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York to paint her as the “new leader of the Democratic Party.”
- Ocasio-Cortez’s rapid rise and vocal personality makes her a prime target, according to Republican strategists.
WASHINGTON – For years, Republicans have had one boogeyman they repeatedly tried to tether Democratic opponents to: Nancy Pelosi. But the days of using the House Speaker as a campaign punching bag are over.
Republicans have found a fresh, new face they can paint as an existential threat to the United States as they attempt to take back their House majority, keep the Senate, and ensure President Donald Trump stays in the White House: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Since the freshman Democrat from New York broke onto the scene, she has been causing a ruckus in Washington. Republicans cannot get enough of her and are now using her as the new face of the opposition.
For nearly two decades, Republicans would work around the clock to ensure that their opponents, no matter their district or state, would be closely associated with the longtime House Democratic Leader from San Francisco.
But in 2018, when Republicans ramped up their Pelosi targeting operation like never before, it was a massive failure and Democrats took back the House in a wave election.
Now, Republicans have made a point of repeatedly hammering Ocasio-Cortez and tying her to the broader agenda put forth by Pelosi.
GOP political action groups like the National Republican Campaign Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee have made a point of elevating her every comment and action, and conservative media outlets’ coverage of her has bordered on obsessive.
In Congress, Republicans have placed a large share of their energy on rhetoric and action from Ocasio-Cortez, working hard to emphasize that she will bring “socialism” to the United States if Democrats keep winning elections.
“What I see going forward to the next election is that socialism versus the freedoms we’ve understood this country to stand for and it goes against pretty much the core of what we believe,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in an interview with Breitbart News on the website’s SiriusXM radio show.
On the other side of the Capitol, the typically stoic Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has even done his part, pledging to bring Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal” legislation to the floor for a vote, knowing full well it will not pass, but will put vulnerable Democrats in a political bind.
Republican political groups are refocusing on the younger Democrats
Political action groups are also trending toward using Ocasio-Cortez in their campaign pitches to voters.
The Congressional Leadership Fund has already started running ads on the Green New Deal, with Ocasio-Cortez as the face of it to target vulnerable Democratic Reps. Antonio Delgado of New York and Colin Allred of Texas. Neither Delgado nor Allred are cosponsors on the Green New Deal bill.
“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the new leader of the Democratic Party and already pushing a radical agenda that is outrageously far outside the mainstream for most Americans,” CLF Vice President Zach Hunter told INSIDER. “Vulnerable Democrats will have to answer for her extreme policies every day between now and Election Day in 2020.”
And almost every recently published article on the NRCC’s online blog tethers Democrats in their 2020 target districts to Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal.
The NRSC immediately took the Green New Deal plan and sliced it into an ad, placing Ocasio-Cortez front and center.
In an email blasted out to reporters, an NRSC spokesman made sure to note that Democratic Sens. Doug Jones, Gary Peters, and Mark Warner will have to answer for the Green New Deal. All three of those senators are up for re-election in 2020 in states that range from purple to red.
Conservative media is going all in on Ocasio-Cortez
The move is reflected in conservative media’s coverage as well. According to data provided to INSIDER by Media Matters for America, a left-leaning media watchdog organization, conservative outlets have piled-on coverage of Ocasio-Cortez.
Right-leaning publications still place a premium on Pelosi-related articles, but Ocasio-Cortez coverage is at a level that’s disproportionate with each of their actual influence on Capitol Hill.
- Samantha Lee/INSIDER
Since the new Congress began on January 3 through February 13, Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire website has written about Ocasio-Cortez 119 times, Breitbart 194 times, with Foxnews.com putting out a whopping 448 articles. Compared to Pelosi, Daily Wire has written about the speaker 124 times, Breitbart 705 times, and Foxnews.com 1,090 times.
The Daily Caller has published more articles mentioning Ocasio-Cortez than they have mentioning Pelosi with 219 and 202 mentions, respectively.
And another study by MMFA showed how significantly Fox News dedicates its airtime to coverage of Ocasio-Cortez.
Fox News and Fox Business networks mentioned Ocasio-Cortez 3,181 times during a six week duration from February 25 to April 7. That means guests and hosts mentioned Ocasio-Cortez nearly 76 times per day.
Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney said, “We have an AOC segment every day, almost every single hour,” and that she is “good for our ratings,” according to the Associated Press.
What it boils down to, according to multiple Republican strategists, is that Ocasio-Cortez is an easy new boogeyman for Republicans.
Based on how she came onto the scene by defeating former House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley in the primary, the large amount of free media attention she receives, and how vocal and candid she is on every issue makes her the ideal new target for conservatives looking to oust Democrats.
Only time will tell whether that is a smart play for the GOP.