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#TBT: Adorable Spelling Children Take Aim At Democrats

Thursday night, 10 kids with nerves of steel will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. It's a tense enough affair without partisan politics being a part of it. But here's a throwback to last year's midterm elections when Republican superPAC American Crossroads did exactly that — made spelling bees a political affair.

The ads sought to tie Democratic politicians to President Obama, who at the time of the election had an approval rating of just 40 percent, causing some Democratic candidates to distance themselves from him. Below, a sweet little girl named Emily takes aim at Arkansas Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, choosing to spell his name "O-B-A-M-A" ("Close enough!" the judges respond).

The Republican superPAC made similar ads attacking New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan, and Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor. (Strangely, all the contestants, despite being played by different girls, are named Emily, and all are contestant No. 14, which raises the question of whether the props department was just phoning it in). And maybe the ads worked — Landrieu, Hagan, and Pryor were among the many Democrats who lost their re-election bids last year.

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Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.