And while the 30-second online and TV spots paint shocking portraits of the candidates, they fall far short of the full truth.
In one ad released by Democratic incumbent Travis Childers, a female voice slams Republican challenger Alan Nunnelee for having raised taxes in a recession and claims he’ll hit residents with another whopper if elected.
“Now Alan Nunnelee favors a 23 percent sales tax hike on Mississippi families,” the voice says. “Higher taxes on everything like medicine, cars, gas, groceries and guns.”
A Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee followed up with a similar ad, accusing Nunnelee of the same things.
The National Republican Congressional Committee hit back with its own spot, saying Childers “voted for Obama’s failed stimulus plan and added $1.9 trillion to our debt limit.”
An ad by Nunnelee’s campaign also criticized Childers for having “voted for higher taxes on small businesses that kill our jobs.”
Here is a closer look at the messages.
Nunnelee on taxes
The Democrats’ claim that Nunnelee favors a 23 percent sales tax hike is a tactic borrowed from the national playbook. Similar ads have run in congressional districts across the country, accusing other GOP candidates of the same thing.
It all relates to the FairTax bill, which proposes to replace the federal income tax with a national sales tax and eliminate the Internal Revenue Service. Though controversial, the idea has been around since the 1990s and has had varying levels of support through the years.
Independent watchdogs like Politfact and Factcheck.org have criticized these ads as misleading because they talk only about the 23 percent sales tax increase while failing to mention the repeal of the federal income tax.
Nunnelee has never publicly voiced support of the FairTax bill. The claims that he has spoken in favor of the idea come from online comments posted by third parties about the candidate.
It also comes from Nunnelee’s Facebook page, in which the candidate “likes” the FairTax page.
Nunnelee’s campaign spokes-man, Morgan Baldwin, said liking something on Facebook doesn’t signal full-fledged support. Among the candidate’s other online likes are his alma mater, Mississippi State University, and its bitter rival, University of Mississippi – or, at least, its famous Grove.
“There is no secret that he has looked at the fair tax and looked at the flat tax,” Baldwin said, “but he has not signed onto any of the options.”
Childers on taxes
The Republicans’ ads did Childers no favors, either. The one accusing him of having “voted for higher taxes on small businesses that kill our jobs” came from a tally of 14 bills the Democrat supported in Congress.
The campaign later admitted that not all of them directly affected small businesses.
“Some are taxes on small businesses, some are taxes on real estate,” Baldwin explained. “A portion of them do directly affect small businesses, and that’s where that information comes from.”
What the ad fails to mention is how often Childers voted pro-small business. According to the nation’s leading small-business association, the National Federation of Independent Business, it was at least 70 percent of the time.
The group last month named Childers “a Guardian of Small Business for (his) outstanding voting record on behalf of America’s small business owners in the 111th Congress,” according to a statement from the NFIB.
The Democrat also won an endorsement from the National Association of Realtors.
“I think it’s pretty clear that the small businesses and the Realtors think Travis Childers is doing a pretty good job,” said his spokeswoman, Dana Edelstein.
The other ad says Childers voted to raise the national debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion, which is not entirely accurate.
This claim refers to the “Pay As You Go Act,” which passed in two parts. Childers voted for the part imposing new budget rules designed to curb the growing deficit. But he voted against the part to raise the national debt limit.
Both parts ultimately won majority votes in Congress, and the bill was signed into law by Obama in February.
Similar ads have run against Democrat candidates in congressional races nationwide.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or email@example.com.