Negative Ads in Ill. 12th Congressional District May Determine Outcome

Illinois’ 12th Congressional District has been one of the more closely watched races in the 2014 midterm elections. While each race is different, the contest between Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart and Republican challenger Mike Bost may be decided by the claims made in each candidate’s ads about his opponent. However, the depiction of each respective candidate may leave voters with a picture that is less than whole.

“Meltdown Mike,” as Bost has become known, exploded in anger over last-minute changes to the state’s pension and concealed carry bills, two of the more contentious issues in the state in recent years. Democrats have seized on the flare-ups, which became YouTube sensations, but they have not depressed Bost’s supporters.

According to a Politico profile of Bost, the candidate’s reputation for losing his temper is not necessarily hurting him, with at least one potential voter saying it was “about time someone got mad.” In what appears to be a tight race, these ads, however accurate, will likely have a major impact on the outcome.

In one of Enyart’s ads, he stresses, “You don’t lead by being loud,” an unveiled reference to Bost’s viral outbursts. In the same ad, Enyart, a former adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard, touts his sponsorship of a bill to reduce backlog at the Veterans Administration (VA).

The Veterans Backlog Reduction Act has 34 cosponsors to date and was referred to committee in April 2013. Later in the year, Enyart praised the progress the VA made in reducing backlog. However, Bost capitalized on the issue over the summer when VA scandals emerged and Enyart had seemingly taken a low profile.

An ad on Bost’s behalf from the National Republican Congressional Committee, with the Democrat’s image juxtaposed with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, reports that Enyart votes with his party nearly 90 percent of the time.

According to OpenCongress.org, the figure, 88 percent, is correct, although voting with one’s party does not necessarily say very much. For contrast, John J. Duncan, Jr., a Republican from Tennessee, who was known for frequently aligning with Ron Paul, votes with his party approximately 86 percent of the time.

Also, the Americans for Democratic Action gave Enyart a score of 55 percent in its annual ratings. The score is higher than those of Republicans, but hardly remarkable for a Democrat and well behind Pelosi’s score of 85 percent.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ads on Enyart’s behalf argue that Bost’s election would make him “part of the problem” and “would make Washington worse,” based on Bost’s 20 years in the state legislature. However, Bost, a Republican, has been in the minority for almost his entire tenure and the ad only reinforces that there is already dysfunction in Washington and that his anger was directed at the way business was conducted in Springfield.

An early October poll conducted by We Ask America showed Bost with a slim lead in a district that has not supported Republicans in nearly three decades. Unemployment and health care loom as major issues in Illinois’ 12th Congressional District, but how voters react to these ads, and the performance of Green Party candidate Paula Bradshaw, may very well decide this close race.

Image: Mike Bost / Source: AP