AUSTIN (KXAN) — Despite being at the center of seemingly every political debate, President Donald Trump has not been mentioned in any general election television ads by candidates in Texas’ U.S. Senate race or by any candidates for U.S. Congress in Central Texas.
An analysis by CMAG for the Wall Street Journal found President Trump has been mentioned in only 6% of more than 771,000 general election ads by campaigns, parties or outside groups — a stark drop off from the 2018 midterm election cycle.
Further analysis by KXAN found neither Republican Sen. John Cornyn or Democrat MJ Hegar have mentioned the president in general election ads, so far. Candidates for Congress in Central Texas have not mentioned President Trump in general election ads, either.
“In 2018, it was all about the president and, in fact, during the midterms, President Trump said ‘vote as if I was on the ballot,'” said Craig Goodman, a political science professor at the University of Houston-Victoria. “I don’t think there are a lot of persuadable voters out there (in this election). I think this is a base-mobilization election.”
Hegar, who will square off against Cornyn in their first general election Oct. 9, said the election is not about her or Cornyn or President Trump.
By this point in 2012, the CMAG analysis found then-President Obama was mentioned in 20% of general election ads.
“I don’t think that this should be about individuals,” Hegar said. “We should be fighting for American values and fighting against anything that is damaging and destructive to American values and to hard-working Texas families across the state.”
Cornyn was casting votes in the U.S. Senate Monday and was not available for an interview for this story, according to his campaign. A campaign spokesperson did not immediately respond to a question about why Cornyn has not mentioned President Trump in general election campaign ads.
The absence of President Trump in campaign ads raises the question of whether vocally supporting or opposing the president would hurt candidates in competitive races. A recent UT Tyler/Dallas Morning News poll found the president has a 40% approval rating in Texas.
Tyler Norris, a Republican campaign strategist who has worked on Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaigns, is not surprised by candidates choosing not to mention the president or his opponent, Democratic nominee Joe Biden, in campaign ads.
Biden, according to CMAG, has been mentioned in just 3% of general election ads.
“(Campaigns) want to grab the top two or three messages that attract the most people to their candidate and talking about the presidential nominee for their party is way, way down that list at this point,” Norris said, adding that opinions among voters of both Trump and Biden are unlikely to change before the November elections.
President Trump has not been mentioned in ads by any Central Texas congressional candidates so far in the general election, either, which includes the perceived toss-up between Republican Rep. Chip Roy and Democrat Wendy Davis in the 21st Congressional District.
“These candidates know that it takes more than being anti-Trump,” said Abhi Rahman, communications director for the Texas Democratic Party. “They are telling their stories and connecting with voters to build a better and brighter future for all of Texas.”