The automotive industry is making a comeback — in political ads.
Four TV ads released over the past week in campaigns across the country feature candidates of all stripes — Democrat and Republican, incumbent and challenger — literally in the driver’s seat while making their case to viewers and voters.
In the Pennsylvania governor’s race, Democrat Tom Wolf speaks directly into the camera, from behind the wheel of his Jeep, about the need “to end politics as usual.” David Rouzer, a Republican House candidate in North Carolina, opens his debut ad by noting — from inside the vehicle in question — that he put more than 300,000 miles on his Chevy truck. Republican Doug Ose, who’s seeking a return to Congress in California, warns about the dangers of the national debt while driving his GMC pickup.
And in a northern twist on the trend, Democratic Sen. Mark Begich’s latest commercial shows him snowmobiling across wintery Alaska terrain.
This is not new: The most famous recent example, Scott Brown’s pickup truck, was a fixture on the campaign trail during his 2010 run for Senate in Massachusetts, and it made appearances in a number of his ads.
But GOP media strategist Adam Goodman says the strategy is not employed nearly enough. Goodman, who most recently worked on now-Rep. David Jolly’s successful special-election campaign in Florida’s 13th District, said putting candidates in the driver’s seat and having them face the camera pulls back the curtain on these often-distant figures, allowing them to come across as a real person and create stronger connections with voters.
This is especially important when candidates — like Wolf, Rouzer, and Ose — are seeking to introduce themselves for the first time. In Begich’s case, the snowmobile provides another chance to portray himself as a true Alaskan, as Democrats hammer one of his potential Republican opponents, Dan Sullivan, over his ties to the state.
“The most underused form of political television today is the power of using the candidate to deliver the message,” Goodman said. “The more authentic the impression, the better.”
In other words, driving is the best way for candidates to get where they want to go.