Hoo boy. We've seen plenty of Democrats try to tie their Republican opponents to Donald Trump, but it seems safe to say that retired Army Col. Mike Derrick is the first Democrat anywhere link himself to Trump. In a new TV ad, Derrick's first of the campaign, a narrator asks, "Who's right? Donald Trump, who says kill the TPP trade agreement, or Elise Stefanik, who supports it?" Derrick himself then appears, declaring, "I don't support Trump, but he's right that we need to stop the job-killing TPP deal and take on both parties in Washington." Well, that's certainly one way to get attention.
Few people watching the ad (which is reportedly backed by just a "five-figure buy") will know that "TPP" stands for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, since it's never spelled out. But "trade agreements" are something voters are familiar with, and many have negative feelings about them. Indeed, the spot has put Stefanik on the defensive: The congresswoman says she hasn't yet come out in favor of TPP but is merely "reviewing" the legislation. However, she acknowledge voting in favor of a measure known as "trade promotion authority"—formerly called "fast-track," because it would smooth the way for TPP by prohibiting Congress from amending or filibustering trade deals.
This is a rather fine distinction that Stefanik will have a hard time making to voters, and it's one we've seen cause trouble for other members of Congress in competitive races, such as Democratic Rep. Ami Bera in California's 7th District. Fortunately for Stefanik, while Barack Obama did carry this district 52-46 four years ago, it's still historically Republican, and she remains the favorite. But if she really wanted to take the issue off the table, she could simply announce her opposition to TPP. Instead, she's letting her opponent out-Trump her. It may be unpleasant to see a Democrat take this tack, but Derrick's already provoked a reaction and may yet draw some blood.