Robinson’s Blunt Advertising Campaign Goes Mainstream

Mike Baker, AP, September 12, 2006

Raleigh, N.C.—After months of running blunt but popular advertising on the radio and the Internet, congressional candidate Vernon Robinson has taken his campaign to television.

Robinson has bought about 3,000 cable TV spots to run across North Carolina’s 13th District—a $30,000 preliminary buy that criticizes incumbent Democratic Rep. Brad Miller’s stance on illegal immigration.

“Brad Miller voted to give these illegal aliens driver’s licenses, Social Security benefits and many other government freebies,” says the narrator of Robinson’s 60-second ad. “He actually voted to allow convicted child molesters to immigrate to America.”

The ad refers to a vote in December, when Miller joined most of his fellow Democrats and a few Republicans to oppose a measure aimed at increasing border security. One provision of the bill would explicitly bar convicted child sex offenders from moving to the United States.

Miller’s campaign spokeswoman called the spot “another ridiculous Robinson ad,” and said Miller voted against the bill because its reforms were inadequate. The bill passed the House and it now sits before a Senate committee.

“It’s just another cry for attention,” said spokeswoman LuAnn Canipe, who added Miller is aggressively seeking immigration reforms, including additional money for the border patrol. “And the ads do get attention. But did he run out of catchy jingles this time?”

Two of Robinson’s earlier ads played off pop culture. An audio-only spot used during automated calls to voters is based on the classic TV show “The Beverly Hillbillies.” A video that got thousands of clicks on the Internet draws from the television shows “The Twilight Zone” and “Leave It To Beaver.”

A radio ad backed by mariachi music also blasted Miller’s immigration stance, saying that “if Miller had his way, America would be nothing but one big fiesta for illegal aliens and homosexuals.”

The advertisement now running on cable television mimics a notorious commercial aired by former North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms. In his 1990 victory against former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt, Helms depicted a pair of white hands crumpling a job rejection letter.

“You needed that job,” Helms’ ad said. “And you were the best qualified. But they had to give it to a minority because of a racial quota.”

Robinson, who once introduced himself to voters as a black Jesse Helms and counts the former senator as a political idol, shows a pair of black hands crumpling a letter.

“You needed that job,” the ad says. “And you were the best qualified. But they gave it to an illegal alien so they could pay him under the table.”

This is the first time during this campaign that Robinson has moved an ad from the Internet to television. His online campaigning has been successful, and he credits drawing $521,021 in donations last quarter to Miller’s $362,126 in part to their popularity.

“We’re talking about the issue—illegal immigration—that the overwhelming number of Americans are concerned about,” Robinson said Tuesday.

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