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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

NRSC Eliminates the Positive

Making an endorsement seem like a condemnation isn’t an easy deception to pull off — but the National Republican Senatorial Committee has done it.

In an ad attacking Democratic Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, the NRSC uses a series of highly selective quotes from a Denver Post piece: Bennet is “fighting for Obama … Obama and the Democrats overreached … helping to stick future generations with trillions in debt … lavishing billions on corporate bailouts and takeovers.” The ad quotes the Post as saying Bennet has “not enough spine.” And the Post did indeed say all that in an Oct. 15 editorial — which nevertheless endorsed Bennet for election, finding him preferable to Republican nominee Ken Buck.

Viewers who don’t actually seek out the full editorial wouldn’t know that it also had some pretty complimentary things to say about Bennet. The NRSC has accentuated the negative and completely eliminated all positive references in the editorial.

To be sure, the editorial — for an endorsement — is very critical of Bennet’s brief tenure as senator. For example, it admonishes him for making an “impassioned” speech against the health care bill, only to vote in favor of it a few days later. “That vote, and his speech, epitomize his short Senate career: So much potential, yet not enough spine,” the editorial says.

But there’s a healthy dose of praise as well, all of it missing from the NRSC’s ad. For example:

Denver Post, Oct. 15: Michael Bennet, who was appointed as Colorado’s junior senator in January 2009, has the temperament, intelligence and passion to be a leader — not just for Colorado, but also for the fractured Senate and the country.

And the editorial criticized Buck for his shifting positions on issues, saying he is “Buckpedaling” from the “far-right” stances he took in the primary. These include advocating repeal of the 17th Amendment, which provides for direct election of senators, and supporting the FairTax plan to replace federal taxes with a national retail sales tax. The newspaper said Buck “likely would be an automatic Republican vote in the Senate, and given the unprecedented challenges that face this country, we don’t think it’s fair, or right, to simply govern for the next six years by saying no.”

The editorial closes by predicting that Bennet, if elected, “will become one of Colorado’s — and the nation’s — best centrist U.S. senators.” But you would never know that if you got your information only from the NRSC’s ad.