You don’t have to go any further than the California gubernatorial race to understand the power and importance of political paid advertising, even if they don’t survive full scrutiny.
The funny thing is that with all the digital technology at our disposal and the sophisticated imagery available, it was a simple ad using the barest campaign methods — sifting through archival footage — that threw a little fizz into the 2010 campaign.
A little thing like a nasty exchange with an old sparring partner is quite compelling, especially if he turns out to be a two-term president with enduring popularity.
I’m talking, of course, about the footage of one of the 1992 presidential primary debates between Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown, in which Clinton savaged Brown for allegedly lying about his record on taxes.
So, suffice it to say, the Whitman campaign found gold in them hills, using Clinton’s very words to
whittle rip away at fellow Democrat Brown — to bolster the case that Whitman is trying to make. In fact, Clinton made Whitman’s case so well, her admakers didn’t have to do much more than add a snappy slogan at the end. Here’s the ad that has caused so much ruckus, as I reported on here and here:
With 40 years of material at its disposal, the possibilities for Whitman’s oppo research team are almost as unlimited as her bank acount.
As good and effective as the Clinton ad was (never mind accuracy for the moment, and discounting how ineffective it may become now that Clinton has repudiated his own words), you can be sure there are other pearls the Whitman campaign is sitting on, with equal or greater devastation. It really is a matter of whether the Whitman campaign believes its path to the governorship is through a wholesale search and destroy mission.
The Whitman team, led by Mike Murphy, has been called out by news organizations and fact-checkers for
straying from outright ignoring the truth on several fronts. But, operating under the principle once laid out by a top official in the Bush administration (many believed him to be adviser Karl Rove), it appears that the Whitman folks have created their own reality and aren’t worried about how the “reality-based community” sees it.
So, the Brown campaign complains and demands Whitman to pull the ad down, pointing out that even the original author of a report that Clinton used to savage Brown in that debate acknowledged his information was wrong.
Clinton himself comes out and endorses Brown, disavows what he said 18 years ago, and still the Whitman team holds fast. So, what’s a campaign to do? Go negative, of course.
With great reluctance, says Brown’s campaign manager Steve Glazer, while wiping off the saliva from his lips. In truth, campaign strategists relish being in the attack mode. Reporters don’t consider it a real race until the swords start clanking and blood spills.
Some will whine and question how Brown, after stating his disgust with the negative tone of the Republican primary, can add to the effluvium. How can he not? Conflict is part of our DNA as a political body. Anything less would be considered unAmerican.
All that by way of an introduction to Brown’s first two negative ads, below: