Herman Cain may not know much about foreign policy, as has been made clear any time he tries to talk about it—for example his making fun of his needing to know anything about Uzbekistan.
But when it comes to marketing, i.e. peddling himself as the preferable or captivating choice in the presidential race—Cain has clearly demonstrated his superior ability to get a message across to voters.
This has been made clear again this week with Cain’s Youtube video campaign ad, “Now is the time for action!”, which in less than a week has garnered almost 400 thousand views, and turned Cain’s Chief of Staff, Mark Block, the spokesperson in the ad, into the most famous cigarette smoker in America, after Barack Obama.
And that is actually one of the intriguing subtexts for this controversially enigmatic ad, which initially grabbed people’s interest because they could not figure out what, if anything, Cain was trying to say by having Block end the ad by puffing on a cigarette and then blowing the smoke into the camera.
Was Cain literally blowing smoke? Was he making a play for America’s nicotine addict vote? Or was there something more being communicated?
Block’s weary and somewhat weathered face, no doubt sculpted in part by cigarette smoking, conveys the look of a deeply worried middle-aged American businessman—fed up by government waste, incompetence and interference—and this is emphasized by Block’s open and unashamed demonstration of political incorrectness.
Again, part of the subtext to this openness, or Cain’s brand of “real”, is that Barack Obama, the nation’s president, is also a cigarette smoker, one who reportedly has had great trouble quitting, but who of course is not about to be willingly seen in public puffing on a cancerstick. That fact is just one aspect supporting a public view of Obama, and liberals in general, as being hypocrites.
In another Cain ad, “He Carried Yellow Flowers”, the cowboy in a satirical take on the fakery of Hollywood-style political advertising, tells the viewer:
“I’ve played a tough guy in a lot of movies over the years. But you know what? Looking cool and saying lines that somebody else wrote for me doesn’t make me a real tough-guy, any more than looking cool and reading lines off the teleprompter that somebody else wrote makes a community organizer a real leader.”
The latter remark is clearly aimed at Barack Obama, who had been a community organizer in Chicago early in his political career.
What is ironic about these ads and the brand of “real” they are selling, is that, for example, when the cowboy in “He Carried Yellow Flowers” then looks seriously at the camera and assures us “But Herman Cain is a real leader”, this is affirmed by an actor reading lines somebody else wrote for him.
Nevertheless, so desperate are Republican voters for a real alternative to Mitt Romney and the other choices in the Republican field, they have elevated Herman Cain and his ad campaign peddling another brand of real to first place in the polls.
As “He Carried Yellow Flowers” points out: “There was a time in America when a man was a man, a horse was a horse, and a man on a horse was just a man on a horse…unless he carried Yellow Flowers.”
If you’re trying to figure out what that means—you might also think 9-9-9 is something more than a memorable slogan for an economic program.
Herman Cain has figured people aren’t voting for president, an office in a government they increasingly distrust. And they are certainly not voting for policies to address problems, most of which they do not understand. In Cain’s determination, as is represented by his advertising, the American people are buying a new brand of real to replace the one which has gone bad on them.