December 19, 2007

No Red Sweater On This One

We've taken a look at a couple of Christmas ads from Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani, wearing red sweaters and trying to give Iowa voters access to their character and quality. Mitt Romney's team decided to take a different tack with the ad below. Instead of sending warm or funny Christmas wishes, Romney's team shows him as a man of action -- and of the right priorities:

This could play extremely well, or as exploitative. It helps to have the father in the ad; in fact, his presence makes it work. Robert Gay's story hits at all of the emotional points: family, loyalty, action, command, success. Gay understandably tells the story with a great deal of emotion years later, and anyone who's had a teenager not come home on time will relate instantly to the tale.

Romney gets some criticism for being scripted and slick. This ad will have some effect on this, I believe. Here we have a crisis that any parent can understand, one in which quick action means everything. The billionaire CEO shut down his business, sent all of the employees out into the streets to find Melissa, and set up a command center to coordinate the effort. That type of response doesn't come from a script. It shows substance, character, and quick analytical thinking, as well as a proper sense of priorities.

The ad does carry a danger of the ick factor. As John Podhoretz notes at Commentary, it's easy to oversell this, too. The Bain search apparently did not actually find Melissa, who finally called home after a bout with an Ecstasy overdose, having hidden out for a few days from her family. The ad implies that it did, which John thinks may backfire a little on Romney. I disagree, however. Gay understands that the actual mechanism for Melissa's return doesn't really matter, but the quick thinking, sacrifice, and leadership displayed by Romney does. And Gay is in the best position to judge this, and his emotional testimony seems very sincere.

This ad will give Romney a significant boost wherever it runs. I'd like to see whether the CapQ community has had any minds changed as a result of the ad.

UPDATE: Team Romney e-mails to correct the story: "Actually, Melissa did not call home. The Bain search created a great deal of publicity. When news created by the search reached the family in Montville, N.J., they called the authorities." I appreciate the response.


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