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Democrats undeclared on Iran deal heed voters, not ads

August 15, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) — It was supposed to be a long and uncomfortable August for Democrats undecided about President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, but so far the political heat brought on by opponents of the much-contested accord is more of a simmer than a boil.

Millions of dollars in television and online advertisements by an offshoot of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee are aimed at more than a dozen states represented by undecided Democrats. The accord would curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions, and the House and Senate are set to vote next month on a resolution of disapproval.

“Iran has violated 20 international agreements and the leading state sponsor of terrorism,” says the ad by Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, the AIPAC-sponsored group. “Congress should reject a bad deal.”

As political ads go, experts agree, the commercial is pretty tame. It doesn’t ask viewers to take any action like calling their senator or congressman. And it doesn’t name names.

A Republican Party strategist, Charlie Black, says a harder-hitting approach would turn off the very Democratic voters the group would like to lobby their lawmakers.

Many Democratic lawmakers are already upset that they’ve been cast as anti-Israel and were summoned for a stern lecture by Israel’s President Benjamin Netanyahu in a joint meeting of Congress in March.

A group called Vets Against the Deal has produced a much tougher ad featuring an Iraq War veteran who was badly wounded by a blast from an Iranian-made bomb.

“Every politician who is involved in this will be held accountable. They will have blood on their hands,” says retired Staff Sgt. Robert Bartlett, whose facial scars are evident.

It’s not clear how large a media buy the group is making. The ad won lots of attention from conservative websites, and Bartlett appeared on Fox News.

Another group, United Against Nuclear Iran, is also running ads. It’s headed by former Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman.

As the campaigns play out, it’s appearing increasingly likely that Democrats in the House and Senate will be able to muster the votes to sustain a certain veto by Obama. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the chamber’s powerful Democratic leader-in-waiting, is the only senator of his party to publicly come out against the deal.

Meanwhile, 18 Senate Democrats and two allied Independents have said they’ll vote to preserve the agreement, more than halfway toward the 34 they’d need to sustain a veto. More than 40 House Democrats have come out for it, with 10 against.

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