Our old friend David Frum laments what he sees as “delusional campaign ads,” pointing to this parody ad, which he calls “slickly produced” and “made by professionals for professionals,” recently featured on Verum Serum:
Frum then points to this ad, declaring, “Suspecting that the ad was produced by the Tim Pawlenty team, the Huntsman campaign hit back.”
I think we can dispense with the “slickly produced” label; perhaps Frum is a little behind the times on what you can do with some video clips and some off-the-shelf video-editing software. I reached out to Morgen Richmond at Verum Serum, and he noted that while he’s the co-founder of a tech consulting business, the ad mostly represents the creative pokes of an inspired blogger:
I came up with the idea on a Sunday, spent a few hours on it then, and then a few more on Monday and Tuesday. I sent an initial cut to my co-blogger John . . . made just a few more edits, and then put it out there for the world to see. I put the video together using Final Cut Express on the Mac. [Retail cost: $199.] I did actually spend a little money on it since I licensed some of the video clips I used from Pond5.com and another site where I got the rhino clip. I had a feeling it might get some airplay and didn’t want to make it easy for someone to get it pulled off YouTube . . . This type of video was something I’ve been thinking about ahead of 2012, and so this was also a proof-of-concept for some ideas I have targeted at the other side of the aisle.
As for the claim that the second video constituted a Huntsman campaign response ad, I checked in with a consultant close to Huntsman’s team, who laughed off the speculation. The creator of the second ad, posting to YouTube under the name “SerumVerum” (note the difference), is anonymous, but there is nothing indicating a role with any campaign.
As for Frum’s point that to non-conservative ears, this sounds like an ad genuinely praising Huntsman, I suspect that was precisely the point. We laugh because other than the slow-motion rhino footage, it sounds like it could be a genuine ad for Huntsman, aimed at, if not Democrats, then the “No Labels” crowd. To Republican primary voters, the stances elicited — a carbon tax, considering health care a right (who pays for that right?), cap-and-trade — are pretty anathema, as is the idea of a GOP nominee who once called President Obama “boss.” Had the Verum Serum ad been a straight-up attack on Huntsman, it wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting. By bragging about the “wrong” things to a GOP audience, we laugh, as if it were the work of a hopelessly out-of-touch Republican advertising mind.
Of course, Huntsman isn’t just the stances ridiculed in the Verum Serum video. He’s calling for enacting the Ryan plan, wanted a bigger stimulus more heavily weighted towards tax cuts, wants to forget cap-and-trade until the Chinese and Indians agree to reduce their emissions (which is to say, never), a balanced-budget amendment, and the repeal of Obamacare. Maybe those stances won’t be enough to outweigh his past deviations from traditionally conservative approaches. But this is why we have campaigns, debates, and primaries. The campaign has barely begun, and already there are cries that candidates must be labeled as unacceptable immediately! Let all the candidates and their supporters make their cases and let the registered Republicans decide.