Thirty-four years ago, the presidential campaign of George H.W. Bush successfully deployed the image of a fearsome-looking prison inmate who escaped under a furlough program in Massachusetts under Bush’s Democratic opponent and then-Gov. Michael Dukakis.
Now a similar tactic by supporters of Republican Rep. Ted Budd recently invoked a similar figure against his Democratic opponent in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race.
“Torrey Grady sodomized a 7-year-old boy,” blares the ad, sponsored by Club For Growth’s political action committee. “Out on probation, he impregnated a 15-year-old girl, qualifying him for lifetime GPS tracking under a bipartisan state law — until [State Supreme Court] Justice Cheri Beasley struck it down.”
Flashing pictures of Grady, the ad goes on to say that Beasley, Budd’s Democratic opponent in the Senate contest, “ruled that it violated the child predator’s privacy” and that he was eventually released from prison.
“Where’s he going?” the narrator ominously concludes. “Ask Cheri Beasley. She’s the reason we won’t know.”
The spot may now be having impact on what is inarguably one of the closest U.S. Senate contests in the nation. A just-completed Marist poll shows that among voters in the Tarheel State, the contest is tied, with each candidate at 44 percent.
But among those who say they are definitely voting, Marist found Budd leading Beasley 49 percent to 45 percent.
For older Tarheel State political observers, the much-discussed Grady ads invoked memories of the controversial Horton ads of more than a generation ago.
TV spots highlighting “Willie” Horton (who had always been called “William,” not the nickname) were actually begun by an independent political action committee but eventually picked up by the Bush campaign. Bush himself made frequent references to Horton and, after overcoming Dukakis’ early lead in polls, won handily.
Thirty years later, referring to the Horton broadsides, Dukakis told The New York Times, “I was getting killed with this stuff.”
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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