RALEIGH, N.C. — A national Republican political committee looks to be experimenting in the North Carolina governor’s race by shifting comparisons of Democratic nominee Walter Dalton. Instead of comparing him with outgoing Gov. Beverly Perdue on taxes, they are now stacking him up with President Barack Obama on immigration and voter ID.
Without much fanfare, the Republican Governors’ Association has been running a radio ad for the past two weeks accusing Dalton of being like Obama by discouraging enforcement of immigration laws and opposing requirements that voters show photo identification at the polls.
The RGA ad was still running Wednesday as the campaign picked up steam when Dalton, the lieutenant governor, began airing his first television commercial of the fall campaign and Republican rival Pat McCrory rolled out another TV ad, this one on energy. Both campaigns said their ads are running statewide.
The radio ad, heard on stations in the voter-rich Piedmont, is the association’s first appearance on the North Carolina airwaves since right after the May gubernatorial primary.
That’s when the group said it spent more than $1 million on TV spots, which included two ads designed to leave the impression Dalton would continue Perdue’s policy agenda and promote higher taxes. The group supports McCrory’s bid to end 20 years of Democrats living in the Executive Mansion. Perdue announced in January she wouldn’t seek re-election.
Now the Republican Governors Association is trying to connect Dalton to Obama.
“Walter Dalton and Barack Obama – both liberal on illegal immigration,” the ad’s narrator says, adding that “Dalton and Obama oppose requiring voter identification at the polls to prevent voter fraud and stop illegal aliens from voting.”
Dalton’s campaign says the RGA ad is untruthful and points to laws he supported while serving in the Legislature the campaign says made it harder for illegal immigrants to get a driver’s license.
While Dalton opposes bills promoted by the Republican-led Legislature to require photo ID at the polls that opponents say would discourage voting by the poor and elderly, he supported other laws to improve voter integrity and require some first-time voters to show identification, the campaign said.
“The ad is a lie,” campaign spokesman Schorr Johnson said in an email.
RGA spokesman Mike Schrimpf defended the ad Wednesday, saying any similarities between Dalton and Obama provide “helpful context to voters to the kinds of policies Walter Dalton supports.” Obama sponsored a resolution while a U.S. senator opposing photo ID requirements largely on the basis of preserving minority voting rights.
The RGA began running the ad Aug. 27. Schrimpf declined to give the cost of the ad or whether future ones would focus more on Obama, who is seeking a repeat of his upset victory in North Carolina in 2008. Most polls show Obama and Republican Mitt Romney running neck and neck in the state this year.
An RGA campaign finance report filed last week with the state suggested another radio ad linking Dalton to the Affordable Care Act pushed by Obama could soon be on the air. The two radio ads could cost RGA $285,000, according to the report.
The current radio ad appears to attempt to persuade a narrow portion of the electorate to support Romney on issues such as immigration and voter ID, according to Josh Putnam, a visiting assistant political science professor at Davidson College. Putnam said the target is probably white, conservative Democrats more willing to vote for Romney.
“I would view this as something of a cautious move and something that they are trying out,” Putnam said.
Dalton’s first fall campaign commercial airing Wednesday was filmed in his hometown of Rutherfordton. Dalton said in the ad he wasn’t “slick or fancy, but I’ll work hard and always shoot straight with you.”
Referencing indirectly a string of politicians – mostly Democrats – who have been trouble in the law over the past decade – Dalton told voters “after years of scandal, I get why people have lost faith in their leaders.” He said he would be a “different type of governor.”
“No more outsourcing our jobs. No more education cuts. No more unfair tax cuts for big corporations,” Dalton said.
McCrory, who has been running statewide ads in the fall election since August, looked into the camera in his commercial and talked about how 400,000 North Carolina residents were out of work while having to pay $4 a gallon for gasoline.
He suggested the state’s natural resources could be tapped safely. He has said if elected he’d support an “all of the above” energy strategy that would include fracking and offshore energy exploration.
“The path to prosperity and thousands of jobs is right under our feet and off our coast,” McCrory said.