Harley Rouda, the Democrat challenging 15-term incumbent Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Putin’s Slim Jim), “outsourced American jobs to China”; made “millions of dollars from sweatshop labor”; paid those workers “$5 a day,” amounting to $35 per week because they toiled “seven days a week”; and “got rich while Americans lost their jobs.”
Those are the allegations in the video advertisement “Shady,” which begins with the voiceover, “There’s something shady about Harley Rouda.”
The commercial was paid for by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super political-action committee affiliated with House Speaker Paul Ryan that doled out $10 million in ads before Labor Day to attack Democrats in the tightest House races. Why? To prevent the lower chamber’s flip from red to blue.
What’s interesting is the Laguna Beach businessman was a registered Republican for decades, including when all this “shadiness” happened. Rouda donated money to Ohio Governor John Kasich’s unsuccessful run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. The real-estate executive who wants to save Obamacare still opposes rent control.
Bernie, he ain’t. Rouda is Mitt Romney, the Republican Rohrabacher supported not only in 2012, when the former Massachusetts governor and GOP nominee lost to incumbent President Barack Obama, but also in 2008, when the late Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) ultimately got the party’s nod.
Think about it: When have you ever heard Republicans knock one of their own for being affiliated with companies that outsource jobs, rely on sweatshop labor or make killings while most other Americans suffer financially? Romney was also accused of causing American job losses through layoffs or acquiring companies only to then shut them down. To the GOP, that makes him “a winner.”
So, painting Rouda with the mean-ol’-businessman brush in coastal Orange County’s 48th Congressional District is insincere—and brilliant. Republicans hold a 10 percent registration advantage in the district, which was reflected in the amount of support frontrunner Rohrabacher and former Orange County GOP chairman and fourth-place finisher Scott Baugh received in the June primary.
Yes, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 2 percent in the 48th in November 2016, but Rohrabacher on the same ballot won re-election by 16 percentage points. Let’s say Republicans who voted for Baugh sit out the general election and anti-Trump sentiments fire up enough opposition to make the Rouda-Rohrabacher race a toss-up. Actually, that’s how it stands, according to a New York Times poll.
Still, the GOP base in the 48th is what it is, so seeding doubts in the minds of new voters, independents and even progressives is what the “Shady” Rouda ads are all about. It’s a race to the bottom, people.
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Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.