GOP campaign official: National security issues 'popping' before midterms

Republicans are making the threat of ISIS a top priority in the run-up to the midterm elections.

Story highlights

  • National security issues are becoming a top priority in midterm campaigns
  • Republicans are putting up new ads that play on fears of ISIS and terrorism
  • National Democrats say the GOP is "resorting to Karl Rove's scare tactics"
Republicans released a new battery of campaign ads that play on fears of ISIS and terrorism, and the Republican charged with helping elect new GOP congressmen said national security was "popping" as a key issue heading into November.
"We're seeing a big uptick on national security issues," U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, told reporters at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor on Friday. He cited a CNN poll showing that 57% of Americans didn't approve of President Obama's handling of terrorism.
Walden said it was too early to tell if the issue had overtaken the economy as the chief concern of voters, but on Friday, the National Republican Congressional Committee rolled out paid television ads in four competitive districts that accused Democrats of cutting funds to fight al Qaeda. One of the new spots said that a Democratic candidate supported suspected terrorists keeping their U.S. passports.
Three of the ads featured images of groups of men carrying weapons with ominous music and a narrator warning that positions supported by Democratic candidates made them "dangerous."
A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said the GOP was "resorting to Karl Rove's scare tactics."
"It's a shame that at a time when our nation is facing real threats abroad and economic challenges at home, the NRCC would stoop to these lows just to try to win seats," Josh Scherwin told CNN in a written statement.
Walden railed on the President's leadership on the international stage and asked, "Can you show me a foreign policy success?"
But the issue is somewhat complicated for the party, and it's unclear how a continued -- and likely expanded -- U.S. military operation in the Mideast will affect voters' opinions in the final days of the fall campaign, when voters tend to pay closer attention.
More House Republicans than Democrats backed the President's request for authority to arm and train Syrian rebel groups to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Walden said he supported assisting groups in the region, but like other Republicans, he said the administration didn't have a clear strategy for fighting ISIS. He said the issue will play out "district by district" across the country.
The NRCC chairman repeated that he believes his party can win 245 Republican seats in the House, which would mean a net gain of a dozen seats in November.
"I'd rather be us than them," Walden said, referring to Democrats, and he downplayed the financial advantage that the DCCC has had over his committee consistently over the election cycle.