Independent U.S. Senate candidate Rob Sobhani is tying himself, through campaign materials, to President Barack Obama, even though incumbent Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin was the first senator Obama endorsed in 2012.
In a separate radio ad, the Sobhani campaign uses the voice of a prominent black former politician, Kweisi Mfume, to make the case that Cardin has been in office too long. Mfume has taken issue with the Sobhani ad.
A flier paid for by the Sobhani for Maryland campaign distributed in Prince George’s County features a photo of Obama on the cover with a sample ballot inside marking Obama’s name for president and Rob Sobhani for U.S. Senate, as well as a vote against the seven statewide ballot questions.
Obama has been a strong supporter of Cardin, whom he endorsed early on in the campaign season.
Meanwhile, Sobhani’s campaign last week pulled an initial version of the ad that uses Mfume, who ran against Cardin in the 2006 Democratic primary, and replaced it with a nearly identical version that employs the same quotes from Mfume.
The radio ads, which target Baltimore city and Prince George’s County voters, include a brief clip from a 2006 primary debate in which Mfume, speaking in general about politics, said, “You get in Washington, you get this Potomac fever — you just think that God put you there.”
After Democrats criticized the initial ads for inaccuracies, Sobhani’s campaign agreed to pull them and made changes, such as the amount of pay Cardin receives, said Sobhani spokesman Sam Patten.
But the continued use of the Mfume quote is fair because he made the remarks in the public sphere, Patten said. The Sobhani ads do not say Mfume was speaking of Cardin specifically, but Mfume has criticized the ads as an attempt to confuse voters into thinking he did.
“To say it is misleading is an understatement,” Mfume said in a radio advertisement put out by the Cardin campaign in response to the Sobhani advertisement. “Here are the facts: I’m supporting and voting for Senator Ben Cardin.”
“[Cardin] is very proud of the endorsements he’s received, including that of his friend and former colleague Kweisi Mfume,” said Cardin spokeswoman Sue Walitsky.
The basic message in the new ads remains the same as the original ads that were pulled and will continue to air, Patten said.
Sobhani, who entered the race in September, polled third behind Cardin and Republican candidate Daniel Bongino in an October poll by The Washington Post. In that poll, Cardin led with 53 percent, Bongino had 22 percent and Sobhani, 14 percent.