In rural Tennessee, Rep. Lincoln Davis, a Democrat hoping to hold on to his highly conservative district this fall, is running an ad that quotes documents from his opponent's divorce case 10 years ago.
"Court documents reveal Scott DesJarlais has a history of attacks: violent and threatening behavior toward his first wife, firing an unloaded gun outside her bedroom door, putting the gun in his own mouth for three hours," the ad intones in a stern, echoing voice over music fit for a sci-fi movie. "It's documented. It's disturbing."
Anyone just viewing that ad would never know that the allegations came from his ex-wife, who was trying to get control of the couple's house when she made the charges. Or that a judge granted DesJarlais his guns and joint custody of the couple's son.
A DesJarlais campaign spokesman said the ad's charges have "no merit." Davis's campaign says the ad on the divorce records was "in bounds" and pointed to more episodes from DesJarlais's past, including a police report following an encounter between the estranged couple.
"The Republicans have recruited some candidates who have just been disastrous in their personal life," said John Rowley, a media consultant to the Davis campaign. "It's almost like daytime television."
The DesJarlais campaign says the ad hasn't worked anyway. "The Democrats and Lincoln Davis attempted to throw a Hail Mary with this ad, but it has fallen woefully short," said Brent Leatherwood, DesJarlais's campaign manager. "Americans are disgusted with the negative personal attacks Democrats are using and these efforts are backfiring here in Tennessee."