Dems try to split from party for midterms

Vulnerable House Democrats are working hard to create distance between themselves and their party’s leadership in Washington on the airwaves.

For at least one endangered Dem, it’s a message that insiders say could resonate with Republican voters.

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Polls show Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) is in a close race with Republican Kristi Noem, who has tied the incumbent to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and President Obama.

The most recent Rasmussen poll shows Herseth-Sandlin with a slight edge over Noem -- 47 percent to 45 percent and a Democratic internal poll from earlier this month gave the incumbent a nine-point lead.

Rasmussen numbers from August had Noem leading 51-42.

Herseth Sandlin has rebuked her party during her campaign, most recently with an ad hitting Washington for viewing South Dakota as nothing more than “flyover country.”

“They look down from 30,000 feet and don’t care about our agriculture, the Second Amendment or our fiscally conservative values,” Herseth Sandlin says in the ad.

She also notes that she “took on liberal leaders to protect our right to own guns.”

The ad scored well with Republicans and self-identified independents in a survey of political insiders Wilson Research Strategies conducted for The Hill.

As part of an ongoing feature called Air Wars, the group e-mails campaign or issue ads to survey participants, who view the ads and rate their effectiveness on several criteria.

“It is telling that this ad receives it highest ratings from Republicans,” said Chris Wilson, a GOP pollster with Wilson Research Strategies. “The ad is designed to remind Republicans who may personally like Herseth Sandlin that she is more like them than like Democratic leaders when it comes to the issues.”

Even though the ad scored relatively low with Democratic insiders in the poll, Wilson said vulnerable Democrats running in centrist to conservative districts would do well to continue to emulate Herseth Sandlin’s approach.

“Whether or not it works in the end, this ad could become the blueprint for incumbents defending tough seats against the political tide. It leverages her personal likability and connection with voters while highlighting key issues where she has demonstrated her independence,” Wilson concludes.

The spot is one of many in recent weeks that conservative Democrats like Reps. Bobby Bright (Ala.) and Mike McIntyre (N.C) have run that have taken aim at Pelosi and Democratic leaders.

On the flip side, down in Florida, Rep. Kendrick Meek’s (D) task is to drum up support among his party’s base in a three-way race for Senate with Republican Marco Rubio and Gov. Charlie Crist (I).

His first attempt was an ad labeling himself “the only one against privatizing Social Security, the only one who’s pro-choice, who took on George Bush, who has fought for middle-class tax cuts.”

Meek has been working to cast Rubio and Crist as one and the same, repeatedly highlighting Crist’s past statements when he was trying to outflank Rubio in the Republican primary.

“Meek needs to run this kind of ad right now because Crist is splitting Democratic support far more than he is costing Marco Rubio votes,” said Wilson.

“Meek’s first task in this race is to recapture his Democratic base after the primary. This ad is aimed entirely at that and doesn’t even begin the complicated task of capturing independent votes.”

And while the ad scored well with the Democratic insiders in the survey, the polls in Florida show Meek still struggling to consolidate Democratic support.

As Rubio has risen in the polls and Crist has fallen, Meek is still stuck in third in the latest Rasmussen poll on the race.

Working with The Hill for its Air War feature, Wilson Research Strategies e-mails campaign or issue ads to survey participants who view the ads and rate their effectiveness on several criteria.

-- This story was updated at 10:49 a.m. on Sept. 22.

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