Immigration not part of official duties? That’s not stopping candidates from running ads about it

November 3, 2018 GMT

The migrant caravan in Mexico headed for the U.S. is still months away from reaching the border, but it’s showing up everywhere on television in the final days of this campaign season.

The ads feature darkened, threatening images of immigrant caravans, dark-skinned people throwing rocks, crowds rioting.

Some are federal ads, broadcast and tweeted by everyone from President Donald Trump to congressional candidates. But others are Republican ads in state races, from the North Carolina Supreme Court to the state Senate and House – offices that have no control over federal immigration policy.

Steven Greene, a political science professor at North Carolina State University, said the candidates and outside groups airing the ads are betting voters don’t know the difference.

“We know that Democrats have been energized by Donald Trump for the past year and a half – are ready and raring to vote – and Republicans are afraid their voters are going to stay home,” Greene said. “It seems that, at this time, immigration is the issue that might be most likely to motivate them.

“You make whatever argument works for you,” he added.

Other ads for state candidates label opponents as “dangerous” and “extremist.” One by a national political action committee claims a vote for any Democrat is a vote for socialism and chaos.

Greene called that laughable.

“What it does show is the power of negative partisanship these days,” he said, “trying to get people not to vote because they support you and the issues you care about but because the other side is so scary.”

This year’s campaign has been especially ugly, he said.

“We’ve always had negative ads – let’s be clear about that, probably since the 1780s – but just the fact that people are so motivated by their hatred and their fear of the other party, that is something that we’ve really seen an increase of in recent years, and I think these ads speak to that, unfortunately,” he said.