A new political ad is popping up in Pennsylvania mailboxes, depicting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf with the notorious abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell.
Gosnell was convicted of murder for delivering then killing babies at his former West Philadelphia clinic. He is now serving more than three consecutive life sentences for his crimes.
The flier (below) also claims Wolf is working with groups that “want to turn back the clock to the days when abortionists like Gosnell were able to commit atrocities without oversight.”
Muhlenberg College political science professor Chris Borick said it’s pretty clear what the Republican Party is trying to do.
“In this case, by associating him with this largely denounced physician who committed some terrible acts, they’re hoping to associate some of that negativity with Wolf through his stance on reproductive rights,” he said.
The Wolf campaign has called the attacks “unfounded scare tactics.”
The Pennsylvania GOP, which paid for the ad, issued a statement calling for Wolf to take a stance on the abortion regulations Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law early in his term. Those changes, among other things, require at least one unscheduled clinic inspection every year. Clinics performing abortions also must meet the same standards that out-patient surgery centers do.
The guilt-by-association approach has a long history in politics. But Borick said it’s not clear how successful it will be, especially with Corbett struggling in the polls.
“Often when you try to make these broad associations with people there’s really no direct connection to — just some broad, perhaps policy similarities – -it doesn’t have a lot of traction,” he said.
Stephen Medvic, a professor of government at Franklin & Marshall College, said it also has the potential to backfire.
“If some swing voters — especially suburban female voters — see this as a claim that being pro-choice is, in essence, endorsing what Gosnell did, they could be offended,” he said.
The strategy, Borick said, might be to rally members of the Republican base who are otherwise lukewarm about the incumbent.