When it comes to electoral campaigns, regardless the level, there are many tools, resources and techniques that are at the disposal of a candidate. When used well, they can give a campaign a big boost or a much-needed edge that gets the closer to victory. But when used poorly, they can create the kinds of self-inflicted wounds that the candidate never recovers from, in some cases for the of their careers.
Advertising is one of those tools, one that’s constantly gone through evolution. As new technologies have been developed, campaigns find new ways to use them to advertise with and increase their reach. Social media has been another quantum leap when it comes to that, potentially reaching millions with a great ad through paid ads and viral share. But just as in the past there could be big pay off for a good ad, a bad ad can spread just as far and do even more damage. This weekend we’re seeing a great example of this from one Presidential campaign in the United States, with an ad that strikes all the wrong tones:
As a political observer, it’s hard not to watch the clown car crash taking place in the Democratic Primaries this week. Between the debacle of Iowa that keeps going and the lack lustre performance of certain campaigns, it hasn’t been their high point. And all of that happening at a time when the stakes probably couldn’t be any higher for the future of their country and allies. In an environment like this, you’d think that a candidate like a former Vice-President to an amazingly popular President would be a shoo-in to win and represent his party. Yet over the past few months we’ve seen Joe Biden make gaff after gaff and continue to slide.
After an embarrassing fourth place finish in Iowa, he simply can’t perform that bad in New Hampshire next week. Observers keeps saying that he should win in South Carolina but at this point each day his campaign keeps taking on more water and it’s making lots of people honestly wonder if he’ll be too damaged by the time that primary comes. Biden’s recent fall has coincided with the rise of Bernie Sanders and former Mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana Pete Buttigieg, with Mayor Pete looking more and more like he’s taking over Biden’s position in this race. And with Team Biden not wanting to go after Sanders, it makes sense that they would target Buttigieg in some way.
That seems to be the thought process with this ad, trying to contrast Biden’s experience with Buttigieg’s, but wow, does it ever miss the mark. For starters, this ad is simply shrill, condescending and very petty. In fact that word, “petty”, kept ringing in my mind while watching this. Yes, it’s clear that Biden, having been in the US Senate for like 30 years then Vice-President for two terms will have done much more than Buttigieg. Folks, Biden has literally been in elected politics longer than Mayor Pete has been alive. So it always went without saying that he had done more as an elected politician, and I doubt that Buttigieg would argue with that.
But instead of putting out an ad touting his own experiences and raising those up, he takes cheap shots at Buttigieg and punches down at him and every opportunity, showing a complete disrespect for the work that Mayors and municipal officials do across this country. In a race where you need to convince a lot of elected officials from that level to back and endorse you, I doubt that it helps to woo them your way when you sneer down your nose at their work, their dedication and call it somehow “less than”.
But you know, it that was all of it, it would be bad enough. What makes it even worse is that this ad makes Biden come off as very arrogant, that everything he’s done is amazing and the rest of them are crap. It plays to all the worst characteristics you hear sometimes about old time politicians and highlights them with a sharpie. It also plays into the hands of a candidate like Buttigieg, who is running on offering some kind of generational change.
And worst of all for Biden, it’s the kind of ad that reeks of craven desperation. Some online have been saying that “Biden dropped a nuclear bomb” on Mayor Pete, but I would argue something different. Out of blind desperation and need to try to change the course of this race, Biden tried to bomb Buttigieg. But instead of nuking Mayor Pete’s campaign, I would argue that Biden just Old Yellered his own campaign. Instead of rising himself above this former Mayor from a small town, the former two-term ice President of the United States punched down at the first openly-gay candidate to win a primary (a tie, but bare with me) who just also happens to be a veteran. He brought himself right down from that lofty perch by showing that even someone as experienced as him can be as petty as the worst of them. That ad would give Donald Trump a run for his money when it comes to petty and you know if Biden had done that ad about him, it would have even backfired there too. It was just that bad.
I highly doubt that Biden and his team feel that way because they feel like they just put this “little Midwestern pipsqueak” in his place, but that right there should be a warning sign for them. Ask the Conservatives how mocking attack ads that make their own team feel so good, you know, the ones with Trudeau shirtless ad such, helped them win. Oh wait, that’s right, they didn’t. And when they tried it again in 2019, they lost again. And now their leadership candidates are doing it too. So much feeling good with so many losses. That is exactly where Joe Biden’s team is heading, turning what should have been a great chance to become President into one of the worst Presidential campaigns in American history. We’ll see over the next couple of months if that stays true, but I can’t help but feel that in November we’ll look back on that ad and see it as one of the moments when Joe Biden was finished.