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Carly Fiorina's bizarre political ad: Tom Campbell as demon sheep

Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett Packard CEO who's running for a US Senate seat in California, released an attack ad this week, implying Republican primary rival Tom Campbell is like a demon sheep.

By Staff writer / February 4, 2010

US Senate Candidate Carly Fiorina at a roundtable discussion with Monterey County business leaders in Salinas.

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Demon sheep. A Greek column from which a demon sheep falls. Threatening weather, badly rendered. An inexplicable acronym. Music? More of a music-like hum.

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This week Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and John McCain adviser who’s running for a US Senate seat from California, released a political attack ad that may be the most bizarre and counter-productive such missive ever produced.

And by counterproductive we mean “possibly ensuring that Ms. Fiorina remains in the private sector.”

“A straight-up game-changing shock-and-awe slice of pure mountain grown BONKERS,” judged Jason Linkins in the Huffington Post.

The ad ostensibly is aimed at Fiorina’s Republican primary opponent, former Congressman Tom Campbell. It is meant to tar him as being a pretend fiscal conservative. We think. It’s hard to tell.

The ad begins with the words “purity” and “piety” appearing against a backdrop of sheep gambolling over rolling meadows. The narrator then begins rambling about “fiscal conservative leaders” and “true believers.” Tom Campbell’s name is mentioned, and at that point the Greek column appears, shooting up from behind the hill with the red-eyed demon sheep atop.

Then the storm appears, the sheep topples from its perch, and the ad enters Mark-Sanford-press-conference territory – in the sense that you can’t look away even though watching it makes you feel embarrassed.

Campbell’s tax record is mentioned. Ordinary people appear. They disappear. The demon sheep looms in close-up. Campbell is labeled a FCINO – “Fiscal Conservative in Name Only."

Over-the-top ads can work in politics. But this isn’t over-the-top. It’s Ishtar-ish. (You remember "Ishtar," the big movie that bombed?)

The Sheep. What do they symbolize? Are all fiscal conservatives sheep? That’s what it seems like the ad is saying. Isn’t Fiorina trying to get them to vote for her?

FCINO. Unpronounceable. Seems as if it could be a typo for “Encino.” Acronyms should be used sparingly if you want real voters to pay attention.

Length. The ad is 3-1/2 minutes long. Sure, it’s just meant to be seen on YouTube – it would get cut if it’s actually broadcast anywhere. But that’s too long. Nobody’s going to view it to the end.

This is not the first use of demonology in political ads. In 1997, the British Conservative party was criticized for running an ad depicting Labor’s Tony Blair with demon eyes.

The Fiorina sheep ad has already gone viral. One of other Republicans running in the primary, Chuck DeVore, has already set up a website at demonsheep.org, devoted to S.F.T.E.O.D.S.F.O.P.D, or “Society for the Eradication of Demon Sheep from our Political Discourse.”

Watch the ad here, and decide for yourself.

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