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Alabama GOP Senate candidates race to the right over guns, transgender athletics

Two candidates for the Alabama Republican Senate nomination are trying to out-do each other with early, far-right appeals over Second Amendment rights and criticism of transgender athletic participation.

Why it matters: Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) and former U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard were expected to tack toward the fringe in deep-red Alabama. They are, but they're also differing in one respect: who they're targeting with their ads.

  • Blanchard's paid posts on Facebook and Instagram have uniformly targeted users in Alabama, according to the sites' political ad disclosure database.
  • Brooks' advertising is broader; some focused on his home state but many of his ads on the platforms are running nationally.
  • The pattern suggests Brooks is looking to fundraise, while Blanchard, running against a Trump-backed candidate in a state that voted for him by a 25% margin, is focused on persuasion.

Between the lines: In one spot, Brooks invoked a 2017 shooting that nearly killed Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) to establish his Second Amendment bona fides.

  • "Mo Brooks stood up for the Second Amendment after being shot at during the congressional baseball game," declare a round of Facebook and Instagram ads from his campaign. "Will you stand up for Mo now? Chip in to support his campaign for U.S. Senate."
  • His campaign ads also include appeals to back "MAGA Mo," complaints about "wimpy Republicans," attacks on Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and claims that President Biden is "coming for our guns."
  • The ads also include routine invocations of Trump's early endorsement of Brooks. He's even incorporated "endorsed by Trump" into the campaign's logo.

The other side: Blanchard, the only other declared Republican candidate, is doing what she can to align with Trump despite his endorsement of Brooks.

  • Blanchard's campaign bills her as the "former Ambassador to Melania's home," and says she is "the only Trump Approved & Trump Appointed candidate who can advance the MAGA agenda."
  • Her ads on Facebook and Instagram include frequent appeals to hot-button culture war issues.
  • They criticize Major League Baseball for relocating the All-Star Game from Georgia over the state's newly imposed voting restrictions, and rail against trans athletes' participation in sports of their chosen gender.

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