- The Washington Times - Monday, February 13, 2012

LANSING, Mich. — Republican Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra has pulled a Super Bowl ad that had some Asian-Americans and political analysts crying foul, but one rival, seeking traction ahead of an August primary, is seizing upon the China ad campaign as “demeaning.”

It is too soon to tell whether the ad — dubbed “dumb, dumb, dumb” by one political consultant — will backfire on Mr. Hoekstra, a 58-year-old former congressman who is pulling no punches in his election bid. He has replaced the ad and its accompanying website with another spot, leads his announced primary opponents in the most recent polls and has a high name recognition in the state.

The ad, which decried the nations mounting debt and featured an Asian actress standing in front of a rice paddy speaking in broken English, also skewered incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat, as “Debbie Spend-it-Now” for what he described as her excessive spending.

Clark Durant, 62, founder of Cornerstone Schools and a one-time vice president of Hillsdale College, released his own campaign ads last week going after Mr. Hoekstra’s ad as hypocritical, referring to his votes for the Wall Street bailout.

“Hoekstra attacks Debbie Stabenow for excessive spending. But like Stabenow, Hoekstra voted to increase the debt ceiling and spending by trillions of dollars,” Mr. Durant’s commercial says.

Mr. Durant added in a statement: “It is distasteful, demeaning, and un-American to use an Asian American woman to lash out at the Chinese government. I take issue with the Chinese government and their practices, not with the Chinese people.”

Bill Ballenger, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, said he does not think Mr. Hoekstra’s ad is racially insensitive, but attempts to counter and neutralize Miss Stabenow’s longtime criticism of China and its trade practices.

“My personal opinion is that Debbie Stabenow has played the China card for several years. She might not have a young woman on a bicycle peddling up to the camera from a rice paddy, but shes gotten away with murder with China bashing and nobody has called her to account for it at all,” Mr. Ballenger said.

“Its all based on the unfair-trade-practices argument she makes. Now he comes out with an ad that tries to change the argument: ‘Yeah, there’s a problem with China and it’s not unfair trade practices, but excessive spending and massive federal debt and China is taking advantage of it,’ ” he said.

He called Miss Stabenow a favorite in the race “but not by much,” noting that “her numbers indicate that she is vulnerable.”

In Washington, Jennifer Duffy, who analyzes Senate races for the Cook Political Report, said the China ad “helps Hoekstra with the base, but hurts in a general election.”

Like others, she is stumped by the tactic.

“I’m really not sure what motivated the campaign to do it,” she said, noting all the “controversy it has generated. Other ads on this subject have been done with a more subtle hand,” she added, singling out a 2010 Citizens Against Government Waste commercial about China https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTSQozWP-rM as more potent.

Looking ahead, Miss Duffy also called Miss Stabenow a “potentially vulnerable incumbent,” but said that Democratic strategists think the senators chances for re-election are strong, noting her fundraising abilities with $5.9 million in her Senate re-election account at the end of 2011.

Miss Duffy handicaps the race as “leans Democratic” for now, noting that the campaign has a long way to go. Miss Stabenow led Mr. Hoekstra by about 10 points in a December poll for the Michigan Democratic Party conducted by Greenbert Quinlan Rosner Research. A Real Clear Politics poll average from July to November 2011 found Miss Stabenow leading Mr. Hoekstra 49 percent to 41.5 percent.

“The onus is entirely on Republicans to make the race one of the more competitive of the cycle,” Miss Duffy wrote in a recent report on the race. “Whether they accomplish that remains to be seen.”

While Mr. Hoekstra’s campaign is now touting its new ad, some Asian Americans were still demanding an apology from the former congressman, including California state Sen. Leland Yee, a Democrat from San Francisco.

“Pete Hoekstra’s ad and marketing ploy was not only offensive, but a blatant attempt to demonize Asian culture,” Mr. Yee told the San Francisco Chronicle’s political blog. “While I am pleased that he pulled the indefensible ad and website, Hoekstra owes the Asian American community an apology.”

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