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Barrow: ‘Democrats want to raise taxes’

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It’s rare that a Democrat says “Democrats want to raise taxes.” It’s rarer still to be said on a day in which a Democratic president accepts his party’s nomination. And yet that’s exactly what Rep. John Barrow did Thursday.

“Democrats want to raise taxes, and Republicans want to make you pay more for your Medicare,” Barrow, a blue dog Democrat locked in a tough reelection bid, says in a new 30-second advertisement unveiled today. “I’ve got a better idea: get rid of government waste.”

But just as daring as the tenor is the timing: the ad, which a campaign aide said will begin running immediately in the Savannah and Augusta media markets, will play on district television sets just as President Barack Obama is formally accepting his Democratic nomination.

Rather than expanding the government’s credit line or slashing the social safety net, Barrow rattles off ways lawmakers might instead wrangle bloated spending.

“I voted against funding a lobster institute,” the Augusta Democrat, couched on a stump alongside a rural highway, says as he hoists up a specimen.

Congressional appropriators earmarked $188,000 in 2007 for the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute, whose research accomplishments include lobster “bisque-its,” but House budget watchdogs objected and introduced legislation to rescind the measure.

The Republican-sponsored measure ultimately failed, though, with Barrow and just three fellow caucus members voting to strip the crustacean-loving center of its funding. A full 223 Democrats voted to leave it untouched.

Barrow’s other suggestions for erasing the nation’s deficit: eliminating mango subsidies for Pakistani farmers and reducing the federal government’s 700,000-vehicle fleet.

But the Pakistani endeavor, like the Lobster Institute, was also supported by Barrow’s own party — the White House, in fact.

Other centrist Democrats have previously railed against progressive figures, but those election-year rebukes were almost universally delivered by way of third-party narration. Barrow instead delivers the blow in direct-to-camera fashion.

Indiana Rep. Joe Donnelly ran with an ad last cycle in which he attacked fellow Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi for an “energy tax on Hoosier families.” In the spot, it was a narrator, not Donnelly, who admonished the former speaker.

- James Richardson