Casting Call for West Virginia GOP Ad Called for "Hicky" Actors

A casting call for a Republican West Virginia campaign ad called for actors with a "'Hicky' Blue Collar look."

The ad "Stop Obama," produced for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, features three men in plain clothes and trucker hats sitting at a diner, complaining about President Obama and West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, the state's Democratic Senate candidate.

Manchin is locked in a tight race against Republican businessman John Raese. CBS News is calling the race a toss up.

According to material provided to CBS by a Democratic source, the ad was shot at the Oregon Diner in Philadelphia. A casting call for the ad reads, "We are going for a 'Hicky' Blue Collar look. These characters are from West Virginia so think coal miner/trucker looks."

The casting call also includes wardrobe suggestions such as jeans, work boots, flannel shirt, denim shirt, "Dickie's type jacket with t-shirt underneath," "John Deer hats (not brand new, preferably beat up)," and "Trucker hats (not brand new, preferably beat up)."

It is a common practice for political parties to use actors in campaign ads, and the NRSC's independent expenditure unit contracted with a GOP consulting firm, Jamestown Associates, to produce the "Stop Obama" ad. Jamestown Associates worked with another outside talent agency in Philadelphia to produce the ad, and the NRSC provided CBS with an e-mail from Jamestown Associates with detailed casting requests that include no references to "hicky" or "blue collar" actors.

"No one at the NRSC, or associated with the NRSC, had anything to do with the language used in this casting call," NRSC spokesperson Brian Walsh said. "We do not support it, and suffice to say, we would encourage our contractors to never work with this outside agency again."

While the NRSC is limited in what it can do about an ad commissioned by the NRSC independent expenditure unit, committee officials are now looking for this ad to be taken out of rotation.

The "Stop Obama" Republican ad for the West Virginia Senate race was shot at the Oregon Diner in Philadelphia, Penn.
www.oregondinerphilly.com

Manchin released a statement this morning saying that Raese insulted the people of West Virginia and should immediately apologize.

"Not only have they been spending millions to try and buy this election with lies and distortions, we can now see once and for all what he and his friends really think of West Virginia and our people," he said. "It's offensive and it only proves that John Raese has spent too much time in the state of Florida, living in his Palm Beach mansion, and doesn't know, understand or respect the great people of this state, and what we stand for."

Raese was similarly criticized in a recent West Virginia News and Sentinel op-ed for showing "complete disregard for West Virginians' opinions," after the Republican candidate reportedly offered cash prizes to West Virginians who produced the most published letters to the editor about Raese.

While Manchin is a popular governor, he has struggled in the polls against Raese, apparently because of his association with national Democrats, who are unpopular in the state. Republicans say the governor has changed his position on issues, such as health care reform, for political purposes.

With respect to the "Stop Obama" ad, the NRSC's Walsh said, "While it's one thing for actors to impersonate someone they're not because it's their job, it is entirely different when a governor is doing that so he can get promoted, as we've seen Joe Manchin do in this campaign."

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Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.

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