Republican Adman’s Latest Gambit: Actual Crying Babies as Politicians

Fred Davis’s work can be controversial, but many of his candidates get elected.

Screenshot / YouTube
National Journal
Shane Goldmacher
Feb. 5, 2014, 5:54 a.m.

Polit­ic­al ad maker Fred Dav­is is back at it. The Re­pub­lic­an ad­man, with an eye for the un­usu­al and a pen­chant for the out­land­ish, has pro­duced a Web video cast­ing the op­pon­ents of a Sen­ate can­did­ate from Geor­gia as cry­ing ba­bies. 


There they are, in di­apers with shirts spelling out their first names: Kar­en Han­del, wear­ing pearls; Rep. Jack King­ston, hold­ing glasses; and doc­tors (and con­gress­men) Phil Gin­grey and Paul Broun, with steth­o­scopes. The scene comes about mid­way through a five-minute ad for Dave Per­due, who is run­ning against those four for the GOP Sen­ate nom­in­a­tion.

{{third­PartyEmbed type:you­tube id:v7s7_W7Sli4}}

The video is just Dav­is’s latest entry in the cat­egory of off­beat polit­ic­al ads that have, over the last two dec­ades, fea­tured con­victs in pink tu­tus, “de­mon sheep,” a gi­ant rat stomp­ing across Geor­gia, Christine O’Don­nell’s in­fam­ous claim that “I’m not a witch,” and an Asi­an act­ress speak­ing broken Eng­lish in a 2012 Michigan ad that was at­tacked as ra­cist.

He was also the ar­chi­tect of John Mc­Cain’s 2008 ad cast­ing Barack Obama as a celebrity, spli­cing him between pho­tos of Par­is Hilton and Brit­ney Spears. 

“If I picked what’s on my tomb­stone,” Dav­is says on his web­site, “it would be: ‘If you don’t no­tice it, why both­er?’ “

Dav­is gets no­ticed — and many of his can­did­ates get elec­ted. But he is also com­ing off the most try­ing elec­tion cycle of his ca­reer — mostly for an ad that nev­er aired. The New York Times re­por­ted in May 2012 that Dav­is had pitched a wealthy Re­pub­lic­an to fund a cam­paign ty­ing Obama to con­tro­ver­sial Rev. Jeremi­ah Wright and then sug­ges­ted hir­ing a black spokes­man to cast Obama as a “met­ro­sexu­al, black Abe Lin­coln.”

The de­nun­ci­ations and charges of ra­cism were swift, es­pe­cially after the earli­er con­tro­ver­sial Michigan ad. It was hurt­ful, Dav­is told the Los Angeles Times. “All men cre­ated equal, and that’s how I see the world,” Dav­is told the pa­per.

Here is a col­lec­tion of some of Dav­is’ best-known polit­ic­al ads:

{{third­PartyEmbed type:you­tube id:oHXYsw_ZDXg}}

{{third­PartyEmbed type:you­tube id:Wo_E­jfc5h­W8}}

{{third­PartyEmbed type:you­tube id:uxJyPsmEask}}

{{third­PartyEmbed type:you­tube id:f69VmIgmhOk}}

{{third­PartyEmbed type:you­tube id:Qvq1LT9y­on4}}

{{third­PartyEmbed type:you­tube id:ovH­bZvLaeZE}}

{{third­PartyEmbed type:you­tube id:oxJkM­sKl­W­CE}}

{{third­PartyEmbed type:you­tube id:r0l­wus­Mxi­Hc}}

What We're Following See More »
GOP Budget Chiefs Won’t Invite Administration to Testify
23 hours ago

The administration will release its 2017 budget blueprint tomorrow, but the House and Senate budget committees won’t be inviting anyone from the White House to come talk about it. “The chairmen of the House and Senate Budget committees released a joint statement saying it simply wasn’t worth their time” to hear from OMB Director Shaun Donovan. Accusing the members of pulling a “Donald Trump,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the move “raises some questions about how confident they are about the kinds of arguments that they could make.”

Snowstorm Could Impact Primary Turnout
19 hours ago

A snowstorm is supposed to hit New Hampshire today and “linger into Primary Tuesday.” GOP consultant Ron Kaufman said lower turnout should help candidates who have spent a lot of time in the state tending to retail politicking. Donald Trump “has acknowledged that he needs to step up his ground-game, and a heavy snowfall could depress his figures relative to more organized candidates.”

A Shake-Up in the Offing in the Clinton Camp?
14 hours ago

Anticipating a primary loss in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Hillary and Bill Clinton “are considering staffing and strategy changes” to their campaign. Sources tell Politico that the Clintons are likely to layer over top officials with experienced talent, rather than fire their staff en masse.

Trump Is Still Ahead, but Who’s in Second?
1 hours ago

We may not be talking about New Hampshire primary polls for another three-and-a-half years, so here goes:

  • American Research Group’s tracking poll has Donald Trump in the lead with 30% support, followed by Marco Rubio and John Kasich tying for second place at 16%. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton 53%-41%.
  • The 7 News/UMass Lowell tracking poll has Trump way out front with 34%, followed by Rubio and Ted Cruz with 13% apiece. Among the Democrats, Sanders is in front 56%-40%.
  • A Gravis poll puts Trump ahead with 28%, followed by Kasich with 17% and Rubio with 15%.