Southern Democrats often find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. Most of the districts they represent have large, liberal African-American populations that provide a great base of support, but the voters needed to boost Democrats to victory tend to be white and fairly conservative. Appealing to both groups at once is difficult in these "split personality" districts, but the latest TV ad from Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., demonstrates that it is possible.
About a third of Barrow's constituency, Georgia's 12th District population, is black, giving him a solid electoral foundation in his tight race against GOP state Rep. Lee Anderson. But the district also gave Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. more than 55 percent of its 2008 presidential vote. Barrow needs conservative whites in order to win, so he's emphasized his independence from the Democratic Party. His latest TV ad subtly appeals to both groups at once. The ad touts the National Rifle Association's recent endorsement of Barrow and his family's history of gun ownership. But the way he introduces the issue broadens the spot's appeal.
In the ad, Barrow holds a small pistol in front of the camera and says, "Long before I was born, my grandfather used this little Smith & Wesson here to help stop a lynching." The spot's larger goal is to show rural gun owners that Barrow stands with them, but with this simple line, Barrow communicates the same message to the district's African-American population, too.