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NRSC to Release Ads Mocking Dem Senate Candidates’ Adherence to Schumer’s ‘Windowless Basement’ Strategy

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a news conference to schedule a Senate vote on the Background Checks Expansion Act, June 20, 2019. (Al Drago/Reuters)

A new ad campaign from the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) targets nine Democrats in key Senate races over their adherence to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s “windowless basement” strategy, which was first reported by National Review.

The campaign, “Letters from the Windowless Basement,” centers around comments Schumer made to North Carolina state senator Jeff Jackson regarding a prospective Senate run against Republican Thom Tillis. When Jackson proposed a grassroots campaign, Schumer allegedly told him, “Wrong answer. We want you to spend the next 16 months in a windowless basement raising money and then we’re going to spend 80 percent of it on negative ads about Tillis.”

Jackson eventually elected not to run, while Schumer’s apparent pick, former North Carolina state legislator Cal Cunningham, raised $152,000 — nearly 35 percent of his itemized contributions — from New Yorkers in the second fundraising quarter.

NRSC spokesman Nathan Brand poked fun at Schumer’s apparent commitment to limited public engagement and fundraising in a statement provided to National Review.

“The National Republican Senatorial Committee sends its best wishes to those Democrat Senate candidates being held captive in Chuck Schumer’s ‘windowless basement.’ Should these Democrat candidates ever see the light of day again, we hope voters in their states have an opportunity to hear their extreme views before they have to head to the ballot box,” the statement read.

The ads, which will run on Twitter, target nine Democratic candidates, including incumbent senators Doug Jones of Alabama and Gary Peters of Michigan — both of whom occupy vulnerable seats — as well as former presidential candidate John Hickenlooper of Colorado, who is the subject of an ongoing ethics probe but nevertheless posted a Colorado fundraising record in the first six weeks of his reelection campaign.

“Each day we spend in the basement is much like the last,” Hickenlooper’s imaginary letter reads. “We are without internet or phones, but we have fracking fluid and no meddlesome ethics commission here!”

There is also an ad dedicated to Cunningham — the subject of Jackson’s initial comments.

“While this basement is quite lonely I appreciate that it allows me to avoid “voters” and political activists. I have no interest in wasting time there when I can be here trying to avoid talking about sanctuary cities,” the ad targeting Cunningham reads.

The Hickelooper campaign did not respond for comment.

A Cunningham spokesman responded to news of the ad campaign by accusing Tillis of refusing “to face his constituents at a single public town hall” in a statement provided to National Review. Tillis’s campaign countered with evidence showing Tillis participating in at least two town halls since August.

“Thom Tillis and the Washington GOP are clearly scared for an increasingly vulnerable Tillis to run against Cal Cunningham, and they should be,” Cunningham spokesman Aaron Simpson said. “Cal is a decorated Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who is running a strong campaign that has also earned support from more than 140 North Carolina leaders and in all 100 counties in the state. While Thom Tillis is being forced to spend more than $2 million communicating with his base to try to win his primary against Garland Tucker, Cal out-raised Tillis among individual donors last quarter. Cal is also traveling the state and taking questions from North Carolinians at town halls, meet and greets, and roundtables.”

A list of Cunningham’s events provided to National Review showed that he has visited over 40 events in 13 different North Carolina counties since August 10.

The other candidates targeted in the campaign include Arizona candidate Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut, military veteran and gun control advocate; Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, who was endorsed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee; retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath in Kentucky; and former Columbus, Ga., mayor Teresa Tomlinson.

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