NRSC Under Fire for West Virginia Ad Casting Call Looking for 'Hicky' Look

Republican Senatorial Committee pulls ad as Democrats demand an apology.

October 07, 2010, 10:53 AM

Oct. 7, 2010 — -- The National Republican Senatorial Committee is pulling its "Stop Obama" ad off the air in West Virginia amid a controversy over a casting call that reportedly asked for actors with a "'hicky' blue collar look."

GOP Senate candidate John Raese called the ad ridiculous in an apparent attempt to distance himself from the hullabaloo.

"The ad is ridiculous and I am happy to say that no one with the Raese campaign had anything to do with it. As a matter of fact, we asked that it be taken down long before it went public," said Raese's spokesman, Kevin McLaughlin. "But this campaign isn't about TV ads, it's about the 7,169 West Virginia seniors who are being told they are losing their health coverage because of Obamacare that Joe Manchin rubber stamped."

The ad's existence first was reported by Politico's Mike Allen. According to his report, the casting call for the ad asked for actors with a "'hicky' blue collar look ... think coal miner/trucker looks."

It's not unusual for ads to feature actors; the "Stop Obama" ad included professional actors and was made in Philadelphia.

But Gov. Manchin, whose standing in the polls has plummeted amid an anti-Washington wave, told ABC News that the ad was insulting to West Virginians because of how the casting call was worded.

2010 Election Maps: Follow the Senate, House and Governors' Races

"I wouldn't have been upset if they said we want coal miners and truckers," Manchin said. "Those are two of the most honorable professions we have -- hard-working people. But to cast that in such a disparaging light is just awful."

Playing on the rising disapproval in West Virginia against President Obama's agenda, the ad portrayed Manchin as a governor who may be popular in his home state, but who will likely turn into an Obama clone -- or "Washington Joe" -- once he gets to Washington.

The ad, which has been removed from YouTube, showed two men in a coffee shop talking about President Obama's policies that Manchin has supported.

"Joe's not bad as governor but when he's with Obama, he turns into 'Washington Joe,'" said one actor.

"We better keep Joe Manchin right here in West Virginia," one man says. "It's the only way we're going to stop Obama."

Manchin said Raese should apologize to the citizens of West Virginia for the advertisement.

"I mean, that's not right. That's not who we are. And I would hope it's not who he is," Manchin said.

NRSC officials told ABC News that the ad in question is being aired by the NRSC's independent expenditure unit, which is legally separate from the NRSC. That unit contracted with a GOP consulting firm, Jamestown Associates, to produce the "hicky" ad. Jamestown Associates, in turn, contacted an outside talent agency in Philadelphia.

Jamestown Associate's outline, provided to ABC News, didn't mention the word "hicky."

The radio version of the ad is still online.

West Virginia Senate Race Prime Target for Republicans

Republicans are pouring millions of dollars into the West Virginia Senate race between businessman Raese and Manchin, and it has quickly heated up.

The NRSC reportedly plans to contribute a total of $1.3 million into Raese's campaign.

Manchin was considered a shoo-in for the seat occupied by the late Sen. Robert Byrd. His ratings as governor are high and Democrats have held on to that seat for half a century -- Byrd was the longest serving senator in U.S. history.

While West Virginia is a conservative state, most lawmakers sent to Washington, D.C., by the state's voters have been Democrats. The state's other senator, Jay Rockefeller, has held that seat since 1985.

But Democrats face a growing anti-Obama sentiment. Obama lost West Virginia by a 13 percentage point margin in the 2008 presidential election. Today, the president remains unpopular in a state where the coal and mining industries dominate and often clash with Democrats' agenda.

With the upcoming election quickly becoming a referendum on Obama, Manchin has seen much of his own support slide.

"It was a given that Manchin would be the next senator," said political analyst and radio show host Hoppy Kercheval, who contributed to Raese's campaign and whose radio station MetroNews is owned by the GOP contender. "Those same people who were saying it's a slam dunk are calling me and saying, 'Can you believe this is happening?'"

The anti-Obama wave is so strong that even Manchin is distancing himself from the president.

On Wednesday, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for holding up mine permits and Manchin blasted Obama for "attempts to destroy our coal industry and way of life in West Virginia."

Manchin is also the first, and so far only, Democratic governor to demand a partial repeal of the health care law, even though he supported it earlier this year. He also has sought to highlight his other conservative credentials, opposing abortion and reining in spending.

ABC News' Gregory Simmons contributed to this report.

Click here to return to the "World News" page.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events