- President Obama not on campaign trail but on airwaves
- GOP also featuring Nancy Pelosi in ads, say she is more "toxic" than the president
- Republicans used similar strategy putting Pelosi in ads in previous elections
- Pelosi not surprised by GOP strategy, says it helps her raise money for Democrats
President Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi are steering clear of competitive House districts but Republicans are still making sure their presence is felt.
The president and House Democratic leader are star players in television commercials the GOP is pumping into these districts in the final stretch before the midterm elections.
It's not surprising that the GOP is tying the president, whose approval ratings are at records lows, to vulnerable House and Senate Democrats.
But Pelosi's image pops up even more than the president's in the latest round of Republican campaign ads targeting Democratic incumbents and challengers. One senior House GOP strategist tells CNN that while Obama is unpopular, their internal polls show that Pelosi remains even more "toxic."
Obama on the airwaves
On Tuesday, the National Republican Congressional Committee unveiled a new television commercial attacking West Virginia Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall that includes a video clip of Obama declaring that even though he's not on the ballot his policies are on, "every single one of them."
The narrator concludes "a vote for Nick Rahall is a vote for the Obama agenda."
A similar spot is airing in Georgia, where the NRCC also uses the president's image adjacent to that of Democratic Rep. John Barrow several times in thirty seconds.
The president served up another line for the GOP ad makers on Monday in an interview with MSNBC host Al Sharpton. Obama conceded that campaigning with fellow Democrats in these competitive areas might only help energize Republican turnout. But he didn't help those Democrats wanting to keep him at arm's length by saying, "the bottom line is that these are all folks that vote with me. They have supported my agenda in Congress."
GOP's familiar strategy: tie Democrats to Pelosi
Pelosi, like the president, has focused her energy traveling to high ticket fundraisers in cities like New York, San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, rather appearing at public events in competitive House districts.
But if you turn on the TV in many of those districts, Pelosi's image is front and center. Out of the dozen new ads released by the NRCC on Tuesday, seven specifically show Pelosi right next to the Democratic candidates. And these ads come after a barrage of similar spots that ran last month from both the NRCC and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The Republican strategy is not new. Ever since Pelosi joined House leadership ranks, she has become a familiar face in Republican campaign commercials.
The GOP effort to tie every swing district Democrat to Pelosi - who they often label as a "San Francisco liberal" -- reached its peak in the 2010 midterms. During that election, House Republicans made ousting Pelosi from the Speaker's chair their cause. Over $65 million was spent on ads that specifically targeted Pelosi, according to analysis of TV ads for CNN by Campaign Media Analysis Group after that election. House Democrats lost 63 seats and control of the House.
In the 2012 election the NRCC and other GOP groups again used Pelosi's image, often next to Obama's, since he was at the top of the ticket.
Even though Pelosi isn't as big of a threat since her leadership position is diminished, GOP strategists say she is still well known, and they believe she maintains a partisan impression with voters that can hurt Democratic candidates.
The new round of NRCC-funded campaign ads showcases the anti-Pelosi theme. Minnesota Democratic Rep. Colin Peterson is criticized for supporting "Nancy Pelosi's energy tax." A picture of Iowa Democratic candidate Staci Appel is placed next to one of Pelosi as the NRCC ad denounces Appel's support of "big government." Pelosi also appears in an NRCC ad against Florida Democratic candidate Gwen Graham that highlights Graham's support of Obamacare.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, a group with ties to House Speaker John Boehner, unveiled a new series of half a dozen ads this week that also prominently use pictures of Pelosi.
The GOP group's television spot says Arizona Democratic Rep Ron Barber, will "take your vote and give it to Nancy Pelosi" and emphasizes that California Democratic Rep ""Ami Bera voted with Nancy Pelosi to support Obamacare."
Pelosi isn't surprised by the tactic, and in fact she appears to welcomes it. Last month she called the move "desperate" and argued it was proof that Republicans "have no ideas."
But the Democratic Leader also smiled and noted that when Republicans made it about her, "they help me raise money every single day!"
Fundraising records do show Pelosi has brought in an impressive haul over this election cycle. As of September, Pelosi raised over $80 million for Democrats this election cycle - more than the $65 million she raised in the fall before the 2012 election. Her office said that she personally has raised more than one third of the $163 million that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised for the 2014 midterms.