(CNN) — Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama took the crime messaging Republicans across the country have been weaving and doused it in overt racism and a conspiracy theory over the weekend.
Other Republicans don’t seem to mind.
In broad strokes, Tuberville:
- Accused Democrats of promoting crime as part of an organized effort at mind control.
- Said Democrats support crime because they want to take your stuff away.
- Concluded that all Democrats support the idea of reparations — a riff on the idea that the descendants of enslaved people should be compensated — because they want to give back to criminals.
In short, he suggested criminals are Black people.
Lest you think I’m taking him out of context, here’s the pertinent excerpt of Tuberville’s speech:
I have never seen like the crime in this country. We all grew up respecting the police. Our moral values. Doing what we could do to help law enforcement in this country. The Democratic party, they have a majority, they could stop this crime today. Some people say, well, they’re soft on crime. No, they’re not soft on crime, they’re pro crime. They want crime. They want crime because they want to take over what you got. They want to control what you have. They want reparations because they think the people that do the crime are owed that. Bulls***. They are not owed that.
You can watch the full thing on C-SPAN. And for the record, Democrats have not endorsed the idea of reparations en masse. A congressional committee did endorse a study of the issue in April 2021.
Tuberville made the comments as part of the setup act for former President Donald Trump during an appearance on behalf of Republican candidates in Nevada over the weekend.
Distracting from a carefully crafted message
Three days later, the silence from Tuberville’s Republican colleagues is saying a lot. They’ve spent a lot of time and energy focused on crime in recent months, and in particular in the home stretch of the general election.
While Trump did not inject his comments on crime with the same overt racism as Tuberville, both men argued the country’s cities are rotting.
Tuberville: What’s going on is a takeover from underneath our country from the people from behind the scenes to create such havoc on our streets that we’re afraid to go outside that they can control us. They could stop it today, they don’t want to do it.
Trump: The streets of our once-great cities are drenched in the blood of innocent victims. That’s what’s happening in all of these Democrat-run cities. And I would say just about all of them.
Do you feel safe?
CNN’s Jeff Zeleny is on the campaign trail in North Carolina, and I asked how crime factored into that race. Here’s what he sent by email:
Less than a minute into a campaign stop on Tuesday, Rep. Ted Budd asked a roomful of voters whether they feel “safe in that grocery store or Wal-Mart parking lot.”
His Democratic rival is Cheri Beasley, a former chief justice of the state supreme court, who pushed back at a debate on any suggestions that she was soft on crime, saying: “The first thing we absolutely must do is fund the police. I do not support defunding the police.”
The North Carolina contest — to fill the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Richard Burr — has not gained the same attention as the top-tier Senate races. But with such tight margins, officials from both parties say it would be a mistake to overlook the state in the closing weeks as voters weigh matters of crime, the economy and more.
Fox documents crime across the country
Here are a few of the TV banners I saw during random check-ins on Fox Tuesday afternoon:
- NYC Murder Victim’s Mom Warns Crime Crisis Deniers.
- Oregon Serial Rapist to be Released From Prison.
- Crime Wave Hits PA with Midterms 28 Days Away.
That last segment featured an interview with the TV host doctor turned Pennsylvania Senate candidate Mehmet Oz.
“There’s a lawlessness that permeates the fabric of Philadelphia now,” he told Fox’s Martha MacCallum as CCTV of a robbery at a Philadelphia service station played in the background.
As Democrats have spent much of recent months refocusing their message around abortion rights, Republicans have done the same with crime — although it’s not clear exactly how they would address crime if they take control of the House or Senate. Law enforcement is primarily a state and local issue.
Crime-related ad spending
CNN’s David Wright, who follows TV ad spending, told me Republicans and their allies have leaned heavily into the issue of crime and spent $40 million on 147 unique ads in September alone.
In Pennsylvania, he said more than 80% of GOP TV ad spending went to advertising about crime in September. Wisconsin’s Senate race has been another hot spot for the issue.
CNN’s Daniel Dale fact-checked three crime-related ads from Republican midterm candidates in September and found them to be deceptive.
The crime narrative has extended to races across the country as Republicans have, in particular, focused on crime and murder rates and efforts to do away with cash bail.
Shooting near candidate’s home
A shooting on the New York property of Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican challenger to Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, has refocused the campaign around crime. And CNN’s Greg Krieg notes New York City’s Democratic mayor, a former police officer, has found some common ground with Zeldin on the bail issue in particular.
Flawed data on crime
Crime nationwide has certainly increased since the time before the Covid-19 pandemic, but the increase has slowed in the past year. The FBI released its crime report for 2021 last week, and it showed a 1% decrease in violent crime and a 4% increase in homicides.
But the data is flawed since many of the nation’s largest police departments, including New York and Los Angeles, did not take part in 2021. Read more.
Citywide reports in New York and Los Angeles have shown an increase in violent crime and murder, respectively, in 2022. Democrats have largely blamed easy access to guns.
Voters concerned about crime
The importance of crime as an election issue has grown this year. In August polling from the Pew Research Center of registered voters, more than two-thirds of Republicans, 69%, say violent crime is very important, behind only the economy.
A little more than half of Democrats rated violent crime as an issue that is very important to their vote.
But that does not mean the Republican focus on crime will be lost on non-Republicans. Pew notes that an increase since March in people citing violent crime as an important issue has come largely among Democrats.