Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is not on the ballot in Georgia, but Republicans and their allies are doing their best to cast her as the face of the Democratic Party as they look to scare their base to the polls in key Senate runoff races next January.
Since winning her seat in 2018, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has rapidly ascended the ranks of the most polarizing Democrats in Washington and more and more Republicans have sought to tap into that sentiment in competitive races.
“She is a new face, but this approach is something that Republicans have run on for years and years and years,” said Charles S. Bullock, professor of political science at the University of Georgia. “Until he died, about 10 years ago, the face of the party that Republicans liked to attack was Ted Kennedy and he was replaced by Nancy Pelosi, and now you have Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.”
“Clearly Republicans believe that by attaching their Democratic opponent to these national futures that it helps the Republican causes,” he said. “It creates a degree of fear — at least that is what the hope is.”
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
She has been a favorite target in the twin Georgia Senate races, where Sen. David Perdue is running for reelection against Democrat Jon Ossoff and Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed to the seat last year, is running against Democrat Raphael Warnock.
On Tuesday, Mr. Perdue started airing a television ad featuring a clip of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez saying she is doing everything she can to help Democrats win the two races in Georgia and flip control of the Senate “so that we don’t have to negotiate.”
“No negotiation,” Mr. Perdue says in the ad. “Think about that.”
The clip came from a recent CNN interview in which Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said the liberal vision for the future would have a better chance of surviving GOP opposition if Democrats win the races in Georgia.
If Democrats win both races, the Senate will have a 50-50 split with presumed Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris as the tie-breaking vote, giving Democrats more room to ram their agenda through Capitol Hill.
The GOP message in Georgia has been muddled by President Trump’s insistence that massive voter fraud allowed presumed President-elect Joseph R. Biden to win the state.
Some Trump backers have suggested voters should sit out the Jan. 5 races as a way to protest the way the Nov. 3 election was handled and penalize GOP lawmakers for not fully embracing Mr. Trump’s accusations, which have gained traction with some voters but not in the courts.
Ms. Loeffler has taken particular aim at the New York firebrand’s stated belief that the federal government should pay people to stay home as a way to get the coronavirus under control.
“AOC wants to lock down our economy, lock the American people in their homes, and put the government in charge of every single part of our lives,” Ms. Loeffler tweeted last month. “No wonder she supports @ReverendWarnock. It’s not going to happen on my watch.”
During a recent appearance on “Fox and Friends,” Mr. Perdue invited Ms. Ocasio-Cortez to the state: “I want to buy her ticket. I want her to come.”
Mr. Ossoff and Mr. Warnock are running as pragmatic Democrats. They have refused to embrace the Green New Deal or Medicare for All and shied away from calls to “defund the police” and pack the Supreme Court.
Still, Mr. Perdue, in his latest ad, warns voters if Democrats emerge victorious in Georgia it will pave the way for undocumented immigrants to vote, the gutting of police departments and the military, as well as more taxes, a packed court, and a ban on private health care.
“Is any of that really what you want?” Mr. Perdue says straight into the camera. “It is easy to say that will never happen in America, but that’s exactly what they’ve told us they will do.”
The Senate Leadership Fund also started airing an ad warning if Democrats win the race in Georgia, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez will “control Washington” alongside three Democrats that have logged decades in Washington: Mr. Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.
Mr. Ossoff, meanwhile, released a new ad Tuesday that focused on his ties to former President Barack Obama and late Rep. John Lewis.
“Jon Ossoff has dedicated his career to fighting injustice,” Mr. Obama says in the ad. “He learned about public service from one of my lifelong heroes: John Lewis.”
“If we vote like our lives depend on it, because they do, we will elect Jon Ossoff to the United States Senate,” Mr. Obama says in the ad.