All candidates have holiday ads -- but did Huckabee's cross the line?

Most candidates are coming out with fairly standard holiday ads this week -- and almost all are similarly staged in a living room with a christmas tree in the background and some heartwarming motive. This year more than ever these ads have to be considered a crucial part of campaign strategies: the Iowa caucuses are two days after New Year's, which means that there will be no space between the holiday season and the start of voting, whereas there usually are two weesks of intense campaigning in January when campaigns jump at each other's throats and often go all out negative.

It's a difficult proposition to go all-out negative in Christmas season, and the campaigns will be forced to air heart-warming ads and hope that it's enough of an argument go get the job done. Though a quick review of these ads shows that there are all pretty weak -- and I'd be surprised if they help anyone anywhere:

  • Edwards, in the name of the season of "miracles, of faith, and loves love," promises that "you will never be forgotten again" and promises to fight for the poor, the homeless. All of it, of course, with a tree and uplifting music. Watch the ad here.
  • Obama ups Edwards: Not only is his tree bigger, but he also has a fireplace in the background, nad he stages his family... including his adorable little girls who end the ads by wishing the viewer happy birthday. There is nothing of substance in the ad, and, Obama characteristically focuses on feel-good warm feelings of all-inclusiveness. (Watch the ad here).
  • As for Clinton, her ad appeared too goofy to me... In their attempts to humazine Hillary, her campaign might be going a bit too far, given she almost looks creepy to me here. (Link to ad here). The camera shows presents marked "universal health care" and "bring the troops home" when the camera shows Hillary Clinton wondering "where I put universal pre-K" and then excintingly finding it.
But the Republican ads are much more newsworthy. First up is the Romney spot that tells the story of how Romney helped find the daughter of one of his associates at Bain in 1996; the girl was lost in New York City and Romney moved the whole company over to the city, set up a command center and organized the whole company as a group of volunteers. When the girl was found, the police praised Romney for helping find the girl. This ad is solid for two reasons: (1) The story appears to be mostly true, not exaggerated, and told in a powerful way -- Romney's main problem is how stiff he often appears, and many accuse of him of lacking conviction, so it is crucial for him to humanize himself. (2) The story basically is of Romney going into New York City at the time Rudy Giuliani was still Mayor, to save a little girl who Giuliani's police could not find. What does that say about the Mitt-Rudy dynamic, and what Romney is trying to say about Giuliani's competence at the head of NYC?

And finally, we have Mike Huckabee. Who went far, very far, with his Christmas ad. I already blogged about it the other day but it is generating enough controversy to warrant a new post: Huckabee calls for his viewers to "celebrate the birth of Christ," in what appears to be the first time ever the word Christ used in a presidential ad (Huckabee was already the second candidate ever to use the expression "Christian leader" last week). In the background of the ad, there is a Christmas tree, "Silent Night" and... is that a cross?!

It is not really noticeable the first time one watches it, but once it's pointed out to you it becomes simply impossible to ignore the fact that the bookshelves form a giant white cross behind Huckabee... which is exactly the definition of a subliminal message. That's right, Huckabee's ad is notonly more explicitly Christian than any other in the history of presidential advertisement, but it also uses subliminal symbols to draw in evangelicals even more tightly. And in a stunning development, the president of the Catholic League Bill Donahue -- a leader of the Religious Right -- blasted Huckabee and referred to the cross as a subliminal message as well:

What he's trying to say to the evangelicals in western Iowa (is): I'm the real thing. You know what, sell yourself on your issues, not on what your religion is.

The Republican establishment is starting to panic at Huckabee's overt embrace of religion -- since the whole point of social conservatism within the GOP up to now had been to use the movement for electoral purposes without ever letting it to close to the center of power. With a former pastor who uses Christian symbolism in his ads now threatening to take the nomination -- and, to make matters worse, a former pastor whose conservative credentials on economic and foreign policy issues are shaky at best -- it's panic mode in the GOP. And it should be fun to watch in the next few weeks.


  • I disagree with your comment that Hillary looks creepy, I am an Obama supporter but she looked relaxed and funny to me

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 19 December, 2007 18:14  

  • I thought Hillary was relaxed and funny, too. This is a great ad.

    By Anonymous Southern Slav, At 19 December, 2007 19:56  

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