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When Obama appears in GOP campaign ads (in a flattering way)

A decade ago, the idea that Republicans would be featuring Obama in their ads in a positive way would've seemed hopelessly ridiculous. And yet, here we are
Image: Barack Obama
Barack Obama speaks at a town hall with young European leaders on April 6, 2019 in Berlin.John Macdougall / AFP via Getty Images file

In the not-too-distant past, Republicans were eager to use former President Barack Obama in their campaign ads as a pernicious boogeyman, hellbent on national destruction. In fact, GOP officials and candidates saw Obama as so inherently malevolent that Republicans would use images of the Democratic president in attack ads, tying him to others in his party.

That, of course, was before Obama left office and became one of the nation's most popular political figures.

As it turns out, Republicans are still using the former president in their advertising, but in a vastly more flattering way. The Fresno Bee reported yesterday on former Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.), trying to win back the congressional seat he lost in 2018, and the message he's taking to local voters.

Former Rep. David Valadao, a Republican from Hanford, started airing an advertisement last month that said he was different from the members of Congress who engaged in partisan bickering, citing his work with the Obama administration on water issues.... A voiceover in Valadao’s ad says, “An independent problem solver, (Valadao) worked with President Obama to bring more water to the Central Valley, made health care more accessible, and stood up to his own party to reform immigration and protect Dreamers.”

The ad apparently did not escape the attention of Obama, who's supporting Valadao's Democratic opponent, incumbent Rep. T.J. Cox (D). In fact, the Bee added that the former president's communications director, Katie Hill, denounced Valadao's message and took issue with the former congressman using Obama in his campaign ad.

“We strongly condemn David Valadao for resorting to distortion to falsely suggest President Obama’s support -- especially given that President Obama has endorsed his opponent, TJ Cox,” Hill said. “Valadao typically opposed President Obama’s policies, even voting to repeal Obamacare and rip health care away from thousands of people in the Central Valley while turning his back on DREAMers.”

If this sounds at all familiar, it's because we've seen stories like this before. In 2016, as Obama prepared to leave office, then-Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) -- a fierce Obama critic -- sent out direct mail to voters with a picture of the then-Democratic president, seated at his desk in the Oval Office, along with a boast about the work Issa had done with the White House. Obama was not pleased -- and said so publicly.

In 2018, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), during a tough re-election campaign, also ran an ad featuring the former president in a positive light. Obama didn't like that, either.

A decade ago, the idea that congressional Republicans would be featuring Barack Obama in their ads in a positive way, touting the eagerness with which they worked with him in a cooperative fashion, would've seemed hopelessly ridiculous.

And yet, here we are.