Republicans hungry to win back the Senate had a strategic choice to make.
Should they run on a comprehensive policy platform that detailed their conservative vision for the country? Should they pick one or two of their most popular ideas for legislation and promise to put those bills on the president's desk?
Or, since their actual positions on issues are so unpopular, would they just be better off not promoting any of their legislative ideas?
Clearly, Republicans have chosen the "running on empty" path to regain control of the Senate.
Think for a moment: Have you seen any Republican candidate in a competitive Senate race actively running on a pledge to pass a piece of legislation?
No, repealing Obamacare doesn't count.
Go to the websites of North Carolina's Thom Tillis, Iowa's Joni Ernst, Louisiana's Bill Cassidy, Alaska's Dan Sullivan, Arkansas' Tom Cotton and Colorado's Cory Gardner and you will find extremely little information about issue positions, especially in regards to specific legislation they want to pass.
Some candidates, like Cotton and Gardner, don't even have "Issues" sections on their websites. Mostly, the candidates offer platitudes and generic statements of principle. A few tout support for a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget, which is a handy way to seem like you are taking a bold position without having to explain what you would cut or (shudder) tax to satisfy the amendment. Only Cassidy brags about a specific bill of his own that he wants to pass in the Senate, a plan to reform Medicaid.
Most notably, the absence of ideas is evident in their ads.
I searched for the most positive ads the candidates are offering so you could see for yourself how empty these campaigns are.
Here's Ernst, trying to sound as liberal as she possible can through gritted teeth.
"Want to know what I really care about?" Ernst asks, "...protecting Social Security for seniors ... good schools, good-paying jobs and health care we can afford when we need it."
That's wonderful. What are you going to do to get us those things? Silence.
Another candidate trying to sound liberal is Gardner. Here he is in a field of wind turbines.
"So what's a Republican like me doing at a wind farm?" Gardner asks, "Support the next generation, that's what ... I co-wrote the law to launch our state's green energy industry."
Sounds nice, but as Mother Jones reports: "when 9 News, Denver's NBC affiliate, fact-checked the ad, it found the law Gardner was touting didn't accomplish much at all to promote green initiatives. Asked for a statement, Gardner's campaign responded, 'Cory says that he co-wrote a law "to launch our state's green energy industry," not that launched it.' (The emphasis is Gardner's.)"
More importantly for our purposes, Gardner doesn't say anything about what he do as senator to expand our national green energy industry. Hopefully before you notice, he shifts to tout natural gas, yet even there he only pledges to "encourage" its growth without telling you how.
Cotton is not above sounding liberal; witness his Social Security ad. But here's one where he at least sounds like the conservative he is.
The ad is supposed to make you scared of the vicious threats breathing down America's neck: Russia, ISIS and immigrants. The narrator tells us these have been all be made worse by Obama's "weakness." (Never mind the Syria air strikes, Russian sanctions and immigrant deportations.)
What is Cotton's legislative strategy to tackle these difficult problems? "...stand up to President Obama ... defend America and hold Obama accountable."
Already I can see ISIS laying down its weapons and immigrant children walking back to Central America.
Clearly, standing for nothing wins more votes than standing for conservative policies.