Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler has provoked ridicule with a campaign ad comparing herself to Attila the Hun – and featuring a bizarre depiction of the legendary ruler issuing Republican talking points from a throne.
Released yesterday, the ad begins with a white middle-aged woman on a couch remarking that Ms Loeffler has been ranked “the most conservative senator in America”, although no source for this is given. The man next to her, reclining against a cow print throw, agrees: “Yup, she’s more conservative than Attila the Hun.”
The ad then cuts to a scene in a mocked-up medieval chamber, with Attila himself grunting unintelligibly at an obedient underling who translates his orders: “Fight China,” “attack big government,” and “eliminate the liberal scribes.”
Reverting to a more conventional style, the video switches to a photo of Ms Loeffler sitting with Donald Trump. “More conservative than Attila the Hun,” reads a voiceover. “Kelly Loeffler: 100 per cent Trump voting record.”
Ms Loeffler’s commercial has been roundly derided by election observers. “This is a Geico commercial,” wrote FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich. Leaving the off-base style aside, journalist Helen Kennedy pointed out another problem: “Dumbass Kelly Loeffler mistakes Attila the Hun for Genghis Khan. Attila marched on Rome, not China. It’s too bad Republicans keep cutting education funding.”
Not all were so amused. Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Inquirer sounded the alarm at the “eliminate the liberal scribes” line, calling it an “intemperate and potentially violent dog whistle” reminiscent of the most dangerous days of the struggle to desegregate Georgia.
Also condemning Ms Loeffler, albeit for different reasons, was her Republican opponent, incumbent congressman Doug Collins.
“@KLoeffler is so uncomfortable discussing conservative values that she hired an actor to make grunting noises rather than do it herself,” he tweeted. “FYI Attila the Hun was an open-borders globalist who killed christians and practiced postnatal abortion.”
Other Republicans have weighed in too. Florida congressman Matt Gaetz, a devoted Trump ally, was retweeted by Mr Collins: “Imagine being so inauthentic in your own performance that you’d pay money to create and distribute this ad. Woof.”
While she is considered reasonably likely to place top of the field on 3 November, Ms Loeffler needs to win 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff in the new year. With Georgia increasingly looking competitive for Democrats at all levels after years as a GOP stronghold, Mr Collins is fighting to make the runoff a two-Republican race by outpolling Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock.
Ms Loeffler, who was appointed to the seat less than a year ago by governor Brian Kemp, was investigated earlier this for allegedly selling off millions of dollars in stock after receiving a briefing on the likely economic impact of the coronavirus – but before she or her party warned the public how serious the pandemic might be.
Since then, she has tried to shore up her conservative credentials in what has been a consistently tight race. This weekend, she visited a gun rights rally also attended by far-right GOP candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene, a longtime supporter of the QAnon movement who is now standing essentially unopposed for the US House of Representatives.
Ms Loeffler tweeted several pictures of herself at the event with Ms Taylor Greene, including one featuring two members of the Georgia III% Martyrs – a small right-wing militia affiliating itself with the well-known “three percenters” anti-government movement.
Great to be in Ringgold today with @mtgreenee and a fired up crowd of Patriotic Georgians!— Kelly Loeffler (@KLoeffler) September 19, 2020
Now more than ever, we need outsiders and businesspeople in Washington who will FIGHT to protect the #2A, defend innocent life, and advance our conservative values! #gasen #gapol pic.twitter.com/Z3j0n4zbyW
In a discussion on a militia forum earlier this year, a member of the group called for new signups: “The GA III% Martyrs are now recruiting dedicated and active members. If you're able bodied and looking for a brotherhood with strong values and big plans, please pm me or follow the steps on the banner.”
“Not sure martyrs is the best word to name a militia,” replied another user, “it basically sounds like the goal is to die early to rally everyone else ... just saying.”