WASHINGTON — Democratic challenger David Brill got national attention with a viral series of campaign ads in which six members of the Gosar family slam the politics and personal values of their brother, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott.
What Brill apparently did not get was new voter support in his bid to unseat Gosar, according to a poll released last week. In fact, the hardball ads may actually have cost the Democrat some support.
The poll by OH Predictive Insights said 57 percent of likely 4th District voters indicated they plan to vote for Gosar compared to 25 percent for Brill. Most said the ads did not affect their vote, but of those who were affected, 25 percent said they were more likely to vote for Gosar and 17 percent were less likely.
“This district is very tough for Democrats, and this obviously has been a viral sensation,” Bill Scheel, partner and co-founder of political consulting firm Javelina, said of the ad campaign. But he does not necessarily see it as a game changer in the heavily Republican district.
“It creates a real problem for Gosar from an image perspective,” Scheel said. “On the other hand, his Trump base there is very big and very solid.”
A spokesman for Gosar’s campaign conceded that the ads featuring the congressman’s siblings were successful “from an earned media perspective … but from a messaging standpoint it failed miserably.”
The Brill campaign disagreed, saying the ads have brought attention to what had been a little-known campaign, whose fundraising has since skyrocketed.
“The fact that the Republicans felt they needed to do a poll right after the ad came out shows that they know … he’s vulnerable,” said Todd Landfried, the Brill campaign manager. “There are an awful lot of Republicans out here who don’t like Paul Gosar.”
Landfried downplayed the significance of the poll, whose respondents were 60 percent Republican and 61 percent age 55 or older.
“It doesn’t appear to be representative of the district. It appears to be more representative of Republicans in the district,” he said. “That would explain the results.”
But pollster Mike Noble defended it, saying it was weighted to reflect the likely turnout in November, not simply who’s registered to vote now.
“They’re in the business of getting their person elected, however, I’m in the business of predicting and giving an accurate view of what is actually going on in any given race,” Noble said. “That’s why I’m 11 for 11.”
The automated poll of 370 voters was taken on Sept. 25 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent. Of those polled, 98 percent said they are “very likely” to vote, while the rest were “somewhat” likely.
The race pits four-term congressman Gosar, one of the most conservative members of the House, against Brill, a medical doctor who has been head of primary care for Veterans Health Administration hospitals for 10 years, the last seven in Prescott.
Brill said he is running because his district needs a real alternative.
“He (Gosar) is so radical that he drives the Republicans and the independents away from him,” Brill said.
Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said he remains confident Gosar will hold his seat.