You’ve probably seen the Herman Cain ad already – it made the rounds earlier this week and was spoofed on Colbert last night – but I think I still can’t resist posting it here.
A lot of the talk is about what they were thinking by having the guy smoke, but that seems obvious to me: smoking is a signifier of political incorrectness, and appeals as a quasi-rebellious gesture even to primary voters who don’t smoke. Mark Block, the Smoking Man, even said that his puffing will play in the heartland: “You walk into a veterans’ bar in Iowa and they’re sitting around smoking, and yeah, we are resonating with them. I’m not the only one that smokes in America, for God’s sake.” Having the candidate light up in an ad would look bad in this day and age, but having his chief of staff light up gives the campaign a certain cachet with a) People who smoke and b) People who don’t smoke, but dislike the stigmatization of smoking, or associate smoking with traditionalism.
Why they decided this particular guy should be the face of the campaign, I don’t know, but I don’t think it necessarily means that the campaign doesn’t take itself seriously, just that the campaign hasn’t raised a lot of money yet.