More money than ever is sloshing around political campaigns, which means more ads and more competition for attention. So how does a lesser-known candidate break through? With humor.
Take J.D. Winteregg, one of three Republicans challenging House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio for his House seat. Mr. Winteregg’s campaign is the longest of long shots, but the tea partyer has put his name on the map with a video ad that has gone viral.
Called “When the Moment is Right,” it spoofs the ad for the virility drug Cialis – you know, the one where the couple winds up in separate bath tubs (which we’ve never quite understood). Winteregg’s humor is a tad suggestive for a family-friendly website, but we’ll go there, gently: It revolves around “electile dysfunction” and several other PG-13 topics.
Electile dysfunction “could be a question of blood flow,” the narrator says. “Sometimes when a politician has been in D.C. too long, it goes to his head and he just can’t seem to get the job done.”
There are more jabs at the speaker for his famous tan, his affinity for cigarettes, and his love of golf, which he has played with President Obama on at least one occasion.
The Winteregg video, posted on YouTube Sunday night, is closing in on 100,000 views and has gotten play on cable news. That qualifies it as a viral hit – no mean feat for a 30-something French teacher.
The record for most-viewed ad this cycle may belong to Joni Ernst, one of five Republicans running for their party’s nomination for the open Senate seat in Iowa.
The state senator’s opening line is a grabber: “I’m Joni Ernst. I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm,” she says. “So when I get to Washington I’ll know how to cut pork.”
She ends with, “Washington’s full of big spenders. Let’s make ’em squeal.”
The footage of adorable pigs is also grabby. Late night comedians ate up the 30-second spot, which has more than 500,000 hits on YouTube. And unlike Winteregg, Ms. Ernst actually has a shot at winning the June 3 primary, which means there should be an encore.
"Of course, our goal was for people to watch long enough to learn about Joni Ernst," Lori Raad, the consultant behind the ad, told NPR. "I wouldn't have guessed that people would've linked to it to this extent, although you always hope."
Some old themes have come back this cycle, such as the candidate showing off his firearms prowess by shooting a piece of legislation. In 2010, Democratic Senate candidate Joe Manchin of West Virginia literally took aim at his own party’s environmental legislation, known as “cap and trade.”
Democrats weren’t too happy with the ad, but Mr. Manchin won the race. They were happy about that.
This cycle, it’s a GOP House candidate in Alabama, Will Brooke, wielding various firearms in a show of Second Amendment support as he shoots a rather hefty printout of the Obamacare law.
But let’s get back to funny. Georgia’s lively GOP Senate primary has given us two good ones. The first is just 15 seconds, and it’s for Rep. Paul Broun, a tea partyer.
It begins with just words on the screen – “Should House Republicans surrender on amnesty for illegals or raising the debt ceiling?” – and the sound of footsteps.
In walks Congressman Broun, who stops, turns to the camera, and shouts, “No!”
OK, it’s not laugh out loud material, but it makes its point. And it’s short.
The leader in the Senate primary, businessman David Perdue, produced the more memorable image, a five-minute ad that introduced him to Georgia voters.
Part-way through, at 2:46, comes the money shot: a bunch of crying babies sitting on the floor, each in a white onesie with his or her name on it – the names of all his opponents in the Republican primary. It’s hard to beat babies for grabbing attention. Unless you’ve got squealing pigs and a female politician talking castration.
In February, the Atlantic online declared that the Georgia Senate race had the best ads of 2014 – so far. Now it's April, and the competition is heating up. What next, more demon sheep?