The presidential race is already creeping onto local television in the 2012 battleground of Virginia.
The Republican National Committee previewed a new 30-second attack ad Wednesday that portrays President Barack Obama as a dupe of a China that has mastered the United States by January 2017, the hypothetical end of Obama's second term.
The ad, with light penetration but a big social media component in Virginia, depicts a wide-eyed girl in a darkened room fearfully viewing television images of Obama before a red-and-yellow Chinese flag and a cutaway shot of China's Communist leaders applauding.
RNC political director Rick Wiley says the ad is also airing in North Carolina, Iowa, Ohio, Florida and Indiana -- states Obama won in 2008 but Republican George W. Bush carried in his 2004 re-election.
An afterthought in presidential elections for decades, Virginia was a decisive battleground in 2008 and a critical loss for the GOP in what had been a solidly Republican South. Obama was the first Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 to win Virginia in a presidential race.
This year, not only is Virginia in play again, but Obama's chief supporter in 2008, then-Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, is in one of next year's most-watched U.S. Senate races. Republican George Allen, trying to win back the seat he lost to Democratic Sen. Jim Webb in 2006, is favored to win the GOP nomination over a little-known field.
The GOP is striking while Obama struggles with Congressional Republican leaders to reach a compromise on raising the nation's $14.3 trillion borrowing limit by Tuesday or default on its bills for the first time in history. Wiley said polls show the drama is taking a toll on Obama heading into his re-election year.
“Across the board you're seeing it,” he said. “We believe Barack Obama is beatable.”
The ad, he said, “gives us a trial run before we put our grass roots in place across Virginia.”
Brian Coy, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia, said the GOP is “holding our economy hostage” for political gain.
“They can launch all the ridiculous attack ads they want, but it won't distract Virginians from the fact that Republicans don't understand working families and don't have a plan to create jobs,” Coy said.