The National Republican Congressional Committee is running an ad in Minnesota that local officials suggest distorts the skin color of the Democratic candidate for the seat, Ashwin Madia. Basic visual evidence seems to back them up.
Madia, a son of East Indian immigrants and a marine veteran, is pictured in the spot with a darker face and long shadows cast upon it. The ad accuses him of wanted to raise taxes, but the superficial aspects are the ones that have jumped out to observers.
"I'm not saying that I know that the people who made the ads knew that this would happen," Clay Steinman, of Macalester College, told a local news station. "But I think they knew that darkening him, and de-saturating the color, making him look a lot less lively, would have negative connotations."
Indeed, a side-by-side shot of the advertisement and a website photo of Madia -- who is running for the third district seat of Erik Paulson -- suggests that the NRCC deliberately made his cheeks and even the lines under his hairline darker shades.
Such a move would, obviously, carry with it deep racial connotations. But it should be noted that similar charges of image-distortion were leveled against Hillary Clinton's campaign for an ad it put out against Barack Obama during the Democratic primary -- charges that were revealed to be false.
In this case, Madia's own campaign is crying foul. "I have seen negative campaigns but nothing as deplorable, or as disgusting as this advertisement or as the national Republicans have done," said campaign manager Stu Rosenber, in that same local report.
And the Minnesota GOP has already been accused and questioned for attempting to cast Madia as a poor fit for the district's population.
"It is a very sharp contrast," Ron Carey, the state's GOP Chairman, said recently in a press conference. "Erik Paulson fits the district very well. People have to draw their own conclusions but Erik Paulson is a very good fit from a philosophical standpoint and a lifestyle standpoint for the third district."
The NRCC did not immediately return a request for comment.