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Senate Race Between Sessions, Tuberville Most Negative in the Country

  • July 14, 2020

Picking up on the football cues, the Club for Growth’s closing ad in the runoff proclaims Mr. Tuberville “tough as nails” in an ad heavy on graphics that hew closely to the style of a Sunday N.F.L. pregame show. The ad closes with two red helmets colliding at the crown, with a narrator saying, “It’s game time Alabama, send Trump a senator.”

Mr. Sessions, who before joining the Trump administration had served as Alabama’s senator for over 20 years, has been painting Mr. Tuberville as an outsider who had been tapped by political operatives in Washington to move back to Alabama and run for office.

One ad resurfaces a video of Mr. Tuberville from 2017, in which he boasts about moving to Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., after retiring from coaching football, “with the white sand and the blue water, what a great place to live.”

Other spots from the Sessions campaign show the first two seconds from one of Mr. Tuberville’s weight-room ads before interrupting the shot with color bars, co-opting the style of an emergency broadcast message as a narrator says, “We interrupt this Washington-funded Tuberville ad.”

The ad highlights Mr. Tuberville’s brief career as a manager of a hedge fund that was implicated in financial fraud. His business partner was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and Mr. Tuberville settled privately with investors after a lawsuit.

The ad war between Mr. Tuberville and Mr. Sessions reflects the upside-down dynamics within the Republican Party as Mr. Trump has struggled politically amid the coronavirus pandemic and the protests for racial justice following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Both candidates reiterate policies that are core to Mr. Trump, including hard-line restrictions on immigration, opposing the police reform movement and a recent defense of “America’s history,” an oblique reference to protecting the Confederate monuments around the country.

But as the president struggles with the coronavirus and lagging poll numbers, both candidates are also trying to paint themselves as the outsider, and their opponent as the “Washington insider,” as they seek to tap into the deep anti-Washington sentiment that still mobilizes the Republican base, even as Mr. Trump sits in the White House.

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