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POLITICS: PennAve

GOP cuts 'documentary' to puff up Senate candidates before Democratic Party attacks

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Politics,Senate,Campaigns,PennAve,Rebecca Berg,NRSC

The National Republican Senatorial Committee wants you to know Steve Daines, the Republican candidate for Senate in Montana and one of the party's most promising recruits in a high-stakes midterm election year.

But what do they want you to know?

“He’s always outside,” Daines’ mother says in a new “behind-the-scenes documentary” produced by the NRSC that is neither behind-the-scenes nor a documentary, technically speaking.

The committee hopes the film — which profiles six Republicans, runs 45 minutes and took more than two months to produce — will show a lighter, positive side of its candidates before Democratic attacks begin in earnest.

“This is our effort to start defining our candidates early and show who they really are,” said NRSC spokesperson Brad Dayspring.

And the NRSC is defining its candidate early with a relentlessly positive, humanizing tone, attempting to avoid some of the pitfalls of former party candidates, such as Mitt Romney, who voters thought to be cold or detached.

The NRSC plans to use the film in its entirety at house parties nationwide, or show the candidate-specific snippets at campaign events, the committee’s deputy executive director Matt Lira said.

The committee will also use the movie to lure donors Wednesday evening to a reception and screening at Washington's E Street Cinema, attended by Sen. Jerry Moran, the NRSC chair, and other lawmakers and candidates. Those PACs that have donated $15,000 to the NRSC will receive two tickets; those that have contributed $5,000 will receive one. Individuals who have sent $5,000 to the NRSC will also be granted admission for two; those who haven't can spend $100 per ticket.

For that steep price, donors will be treated to photos of a young Daines fishing and hunting, as befits his love for the outdoors and Montana.

“I've got to admit,” Daines says in one scene, as he recalls leaving the state for a job with Procter and Gamble in the Midwest, “I had a tear rolling down my cheek because I didn’t want to leave Montana.”

But Daines vows to return — “and find a way back he did,” the deep-voiced narrator says.

Viewers travel also to “Michigan, a state shaped like a hand,” in a segment about Republican candidate Terri Lynn Land, who is challenging Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., for the state's open Senate seat. The film includes additional segments on Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who is challenging Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu; former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds, running for an open seat; Rep. Tom Cotton, taking on Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor in Arkansas; and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

To get to know the candidates, viewers are not taken with them on the campaign trail, but are confined to a living room or office from which the candidates speak straight to the camera, or others speak on their behalf.

The surrogates are used to mixed effect. In a segment about Rep. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican challenging Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, “Keith,” a family friend, notes that Cotton’s six-foot, five-inch frame made him stand out, but also that he was “always active and looked so much wiser than he was.”

Those interviews are interspersed with family photos, shots of the candidates' hometowns, and country roads, which no doubt lead to the Senate.

In light of dim public opinion of the president's signature health care law, Republicans are hopeful they will win a Senate majority in 2014, and Dayspring said Wednesday that he anticipates 14 states will be firmly in play. The GOP will need to net six seats to overtake Democrats.

Republicans were boosted most recently by a strong recruiting victory in Colorado, where Republican Rep. Cory Gardner has stepped up to challenge Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat. Before Gardner's announcement, the state was not thought to be among those most solidly in play.

Gardner could find himself as a future NRSC leading man: The committee is working on its sequel to this documentary, and aides said a third installment is possible.

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