Thursday, May 20, 2010
Never Heard of Dale Peterson...Now You Have Big ol' Dale has become, thanks to the Internet, the most famous man ever to run for State Agriculture Commissioner. If you're a political junkie, or just a student of popular culture, you must check out Peterson's web-based commercial. The spot hasn't ever run on TV, but it's gone viral on YouTube (an increasingly vital portal for political ads), received thousands of hits, generated national press coverage and spawned a parody. Since this is a family website, you'll have to go find the parody yourself. It won't be hard. In the spot, Peterson, a Republican, rides a horse, wears a white Stetson, hoists a rifle and looks directly into the camera and bellows - "listen up!" It's raw, populist red meat for red necks and its, perhaps unintentionally, very funny. Yet, the guy really looks like he should be the Ag Commissioner in Alabama. A number of observers, including this one, say the ad is the best so far in this political cycle. Peterson's ad is, like most memorable political spots, different, funny and sharply pointed. It reminds me of some of the ads Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and New Mexico Gov, Bill Richardson have run in their campaigns. Dan Testa, writing for the Flathead Beacon, makes the Schweitzer connection and offers his check list for a Peterson-type ad: "...this one covers all the bases: Horses? Check. Western wear? Check. Ranch or farm setting? Check. White-hot faux populist anger? Check. Firearms? You should know better than to ask." The best political ads, I think, give the viewer 30 seconds (or 60 in Peterson's case) of real insight into the candidate. In 1990, former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus' best - and most remembered spot - featured him spontaneously reaching in his pocket to pull out his wallet in order to show a potential voter the fish he had caught with his granddaughter. When the prospective voter asked the angling governor, "where did you catch those?" Andrus responded: "No tellem creek..." and everyone had a good laugh. The spot was truly captured as it happened, unscripted and unrehearsed. In a few seconds it showed Andrus to be a proud grandfather, a successful fisherman and a fast man with a quip. In other words, it provided that 30 second look into what the guy is all about. I don't know if Dale Peterson will win the GOP nomination for Ag Commissioner in Alabama, but I do know most people who see his commercial will remember it - and him. That's the point.