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 »
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
19 hours ago

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Maher Weighs in on Bernie, Trump and Palin
20 hours ago

“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.