A year ago, politicos expected that the 2014 midterm elections would center on the economy, President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and perhaps social issues like the gender pay gap and gay marriage. But two weeks before Election Day, those predictions are looking less prescient, as several GOP candidates are laser-focused on Ebola and the rise of terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
A number of Republicans are resorting to scare tactics to score points on these issues. Some are even attempting to tie the deadly virus and terrorism to the southern border (which of course is another hot-button issue for conservatives), although no such evidence exists.
We received input from the msnbc.com community on the worst scare tactics and claims being used by conservatives on the campaign trail. Below is a closer look.
We want to hear from you! For the next piece in our series, we’re looking at the tightest races in the midterm elections. Which ones are you paying particularly close attention to? Leave a comment on this post to submit your suggestions.
ISIS is working with Mexican drug cartels
Republican Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who is trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, suggested earlier this month at a tele-town hall meeting that ISIS extremists are collaborating with Mexican drug cartels to infiltrate America’s southern border.
“The problem with Mark Pryor and Barack Obama refusing to enforce our immigration laws and refusing to secure our border. I’ll change that when I’m in the U.S. Senate,” he said. “And I would add: it’s not just an immigration problem. We now know that it’s a security problem. Groups like the Islamic State collaborate with drug cartels in Mexico who have clearly shown they’re willing to expand outside the drug trade into human trafficking and potentially even terrorism.” He later said, “They could infiltrate our defenseless border and attack us right here in places like Arkansas.”
U.S. officials and counterterrorism experts have repeatedly said there is no evidence that ISIS is attempting to infiltrate the U.S. through the nation’s southern border.
Ebola-infected terrorists could come through Mexico
Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown said on Oct. 14 it would be “naïve” not to consider that Ebola-infected terrorists could enter through the country’s southern border.
“We have a border that’s so porous that anyone can walk across it,” said Brown, a former Massachusetts senator during an interview with New Hampshire radio station WGIR. “I think it’s naïve to think that people aren’t going to be walking through here who have those type of diseases and, or other types of intent, criminal or terrorist. And yet we do nothing to secure our border. It’s outrageous.”
Experts have said it’s highly unlikely that Ebola could come across the U.S.-Mexico border, pointing to the fact that there have not been cases in Central America and that it would not be very effective as a biological weapon.
An ISIS plot to attack the U.S. through “Arizona’s backyard”
The National Republican Congressional Committee also has an ad suggesting that terrorists are coming through the Mexican border. In one, which targets Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, who is up against Republican challenger Andy Tobin, a narrator said, “Evil forces around the world want to harm Americans everyday,” adding, “Their entry into our country? Through Arizona’s backyard.” The spot is complete with ISIS fighters holding weapons and riding on tanks. The ad pointed to Kirkpatrick’s opposition to some border initiatives and declared “Kirkpatrick votes against protecting Arizona.”
The Ebola-border connection, again
Thom Tillis, the Republican candidate for Senate in North Carolina, is also tying Ebola to border security. At a recent debate, the Republican insisted his opponent, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, had failed the state’s residents by not securing the border. “We’ve got an Ebola outbreak, we have bad actors that can come across the border. We need to seal the border and secure it.”
Politifact recently rated such claims as “pants on fire.”
Channeling James Foley
Allen Weh, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in New Mexico, came under criticism for coming out with an ad featuring an image of the knife-wielding ISIS fighter who beheaded American journalist James Foley. “To change Washington, you must change your Senator,” the campaign spot read.
Weh’s opponent, Democratic Sen. Tom Udall criticized the ad, saying “Using James Foley’s horrific and tragic death for shock value is offensive to Mr. Foley’s family, New Mexico voters and the rest of our country.”
Where is the travel ban?
White House officials and health experts say a travel ban on Ebola-stricken countries would be both ineffective and counterintuitive in that it could spread to other parts of Africa, could result in civil war and could create a barrier to aid workers trying to get supplies into afflicted areas. Instead, the government is focusing on strengthening initiatives like airport security screening .
Several GOP Senate candidates, including Iowa’s Joni Ernst and Georgia’s David Perdue announced their support for a travel ban. Ernst, in a statement, suggested the Obama Administration isn’t taking the threat seriously. “It’s time for the Administration to get serious and do everything possible to make sure the Ebola virus does not spread further into the United States.”