Democrats are exultant over a report that a National Republican Senatorial Committee ad running in West Virginia featured actors who had been asked to look "Hicky" on a set in Philadelphia.
The story, run by Politico's Mike Allen, underscores what one Democrat described as the "whole frame" on Republican candidate John Raese--"he doesn't understand working people."
But while the optics look bad for the NRSC (so much so that the committee ended up pulling the advertisement early Thursday morning), Republican officials insist that the story contains some important nuance that takes away a bit of the bite.
Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the NRSC, noted in a comment on Thursday morning that no one associated with the committee "had anything to do with the language used in this casting call." A GOP official who helped get the ad together, meanwhile, sends over a copy of the email that the consulting firm Jamestown Associates sent to the outside casting agency in Philadelphia that supports Walsh's claim.
Absent from the email is the word "hicky" or any hackneyed suggestion of how the actors should dress. While those offending aspects may have been included in other communiqués, the official stressed that it was the outside talent agency -- not the NRSC or even Jamestown Associates -- which adopted the derogatory descriptions for the cast members it wanted.
"So here's what we need for casting," wrote Kristen Holcroft, the Production Manager of Jamestown Associates. "2 featured characters that will be talking to each other at a diner, conversation back and forth. I will send over a script for them to read for the audition. We will need the auditions by Wednesday morning at the latest and once we have selected the actors, the shoot will be on Thursday, Sept 30th. We will also need 5 background characters to fill in the diner. The rate for the featured actors will be $400/day and $100/day for the background characters."
- Age about 55.
- Looking for someone to represent the middle of the country... Ohio, Pittsburgh, West Virginia area
- Middle class
- Age about 45
- Middle class
- Again, should represent the Ohio, Pittsburgh, West Virginia area of the country
5 background characters:
- Elderly couple
- 20's-ish male
Both political parties hire actors to appear in political commercials. Recently, in North Carolina, for instance, it was reported that the same crew that was hired to help defeat Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole had crossed party lines and been solicited for a commercial to help elected Republican Senator Richard Burr. So it may also be difficult for Democrats to lob charges of inauthenticity with respect to the pro-Raese spots.
In the end, however, there is a deeper symbolism to the quasi-controversy that Republicans may have trouble shaking. It's one thing, after all, to attack Democrats for having policies that are damaging to working-class interests. It's another thing to pay big money to actors to play working-class people.
The Republican source, who provided the above email, said this was not part of the reason the NRSC dropped the ad. It was, he said, set to be removed from rotation in a few days. The committee decided to drop it a bit earlier "so this isn't an unnecessary distraction," he added.