Tim Pawlenty took a page out of the Madison Avenue playbook today. It’s a core belief of modern (but not post-modern) brand management that if consumers associate your product with something negative, you try to overcome that with advertising designed to make the opposite positive association.
Car ads are a case in point. Last night during the football game that the Jets showed up for late I saw a commercial for a Cadillac that was designed to make me think of it as a sports car driven by wealthy yuppies approaching middle age, rather than a grandparental boat or a pimpmobile. I laughed.
Tim Pawlenty wants to be President. But the rap on him is that he is dull even for a whiteguy Minnesotan. Thus, the first Pawlenty campaign ad, the thrust of which is captured in TPM’s Tim Pawlenty Releases Action Movie Campaign Trailer.
I’m sure the campaign sees this as a triple win: First they get to try to associate the candidate with good right wing stuff like fighter planes, toughness, and various multi-ethnic feelgood imagery. Second, they get to try to suggest he might be exciting. (Good luck with that.) Third, they get to be the first ones visibly out of the gate. (Do NOT pay any attention to that Romney behind the curtain!)
To the very limited extent the American public notices, I predict bemusement.
That doesn’t mean Pawlenty isn’t as serious a candidate for the GOP nomination as any of the other members of a fairly unprepossessing field. If you think Romney will use all that money to loom large, then Pawlenty has a shot at being the ABR-ABP (Anyone But Romney, Anyone But Palin) candidate, if Huckabee (the natural ABP candidate) can be marginalized as Palin Lite, or as the front man for the parts of the party Main Street fears. Watch to see how much Pawlenty genuflects to the Tea Party tendency: the trick for an ABR-ABP candidate is to have at least some support there without going overboard.