35 thoughts on “Mr. Horner’s Avuncular Attack Ad

  1. Newt says:

    The Mushy Middle acts as if it has some magical solution to the polarity of the dominant parties. What is it?

    P.S. The production values of this spot are horrible and reinforce the perception that Third Party candidates are operating from their garage.

  2. This is anti-politics. What IS the center? When Tim Penny was on Money Public Radio once I called in and mentioned the “center” was the midpoint between two other points; I said if the Republicans moved 10 notches to the right would he move five? He laughed but didn’t answer. Horner isn’t offering solutions with this ad – just innuendo. I personally don’t think it will work. Look up the reporting on Horner – it ENDLESSLY harps his “centrist” cred. He’s not offering anything new, just more fog.

  3. Joe Loveland says:

    Newt and Rob, if your votes were in play, and the votes of other committed liberals and conservatives were in play, this would be a bad ad. You want red meat rhetoric and policy specifics, and this offers the opposite.

    But your votes aren’t in play, are they? You already know who you’re voting for, so why would he design an ad for you and others like you? This is designed for persuadables in the center-right and center left who are either undecided or soft supporters of Dayton or Emmer. Many of them are thinking broadly not specifically. Many pride themselves in voting for “the man, not the party.” Many blame both parties for the state’s fiscal struggles and don’t view either party as having all the answers. For those kinds of voters, this ad works.

    1. You’re right, Joe – politicians now pander to the 10 percent or so of idiot voters who know nothing about politics or policy. It might be necessary, but I don’t admire it – it is a cop out. I remember post-mortems of the Coleman-Mondale debate after Wellstone died. The analysis focused on a small subset of voters who voted for Coleman – and swung the election – because they thought, from watching one debate, that Mondale was mean to Coleman.

    2. BTW – the pandering to that 10 percent of ignorant voters only works if you’re within striking distance – when you’re stuck at 10 percent it is meaningless.

      1. Joe Loveland says:

        I think there is much more than 10% in play. Lots of soft Emmer and soft Dayton support, and it will get softer as the flak flies. And most aren’t ignorant. Some are, but most are distracted or in denial about politics until decision time.

  4. Joe Loveland says:

    One other argument I should have made above: Unlike most political ads, this ad focuses on something that is actually differentiating. Every candidate can and does claim to be “fiscally responsible,” “standing up for the average Minnesotan,” “pro-family,” etc. That framing isn’t the least bit differentiating.

    But only Horner can claim to be the fresh outsider who hasn’t been part of the partisan bickering that so frustrates the middle. So he’s got a theme that differentiates from the other two. Important.

    1. Horner not part of the partisan bickering? An outsider? What planet have you been living on? He’s been a spokesman for the party of no for what – forever? He’s rewriting history and you’re falling for it.

      1. Joe Loveland says:

        True, Horner was the Republican voice on MPR and other news stations. But he wasn’t an elected official, and elected officials in Congress and the Legislature are the real target of voter outrage, Moreover, Horner was about as genial and measured a Talking Head as one could find.

  5. Joe – you’re right, it’s a first ad and it is memorable. BUT Horner is going to have to do a better job, TV-wise, of explaining just what “middle” means in policy terms. Otherwise, this is just bromides – which of course the other parties do, but it has to stand out in more than rhetoric.

    I look forward to Horner’s budget plan on Monday, and it will be interesting to see just how that translates into whatever 30-second spots he can afford.

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      David, I agree that Horner is going to have to go deeper , but I think we’re in agreement that the 30-second ad isn’t the place to do that.

      Early on, I drafted a post that blasted Horner for lack of policy specifics. I was convinced he was going to run exclusively on none-of-the-aboveism. But before I got around to posting it, Horner started getting quite specific, including in a little Wonk Slam session here. He was a cornocopia of positions that day, including a big honkin’ tax reform package.

      I’m anxious to hear more too, but I’d argue Horner has been considerably more specific than Dayton or Emmer.

      1. You lost me there, Joe. Horner more specific than Dayton? I don’t think so. Maybe you ask Eric Black how specific Dayton has been. Dayton says he’s going to raise taxes on the rich. Can you be more specific? Who’s going to pay more when Horner is governor?


        Horner has been arguably much more opaque – he wants to include the sales tax on currently untaxed items. How vague is that?

      2. Joe Loveland says:

        Read that lengthy SRC exchange yourself, Rob. Horner was remarkably forthcoming with positions. Below is a summary I wrote that day of positions that Horner took that had the potential to draw criticism:

        Horner statements Republicans may seize on…

        broaden the (sales tax) base to cover the types of things other states tax
        • Increase the tobacco tax
        Taxes on consumption are too low.

        Taxes on tobacco are too low.
        • In general tone and demeanor, I prefer to compare myself to my former boss, Dave Durenberger. I think Dave had two communications assets that are vital – first, he always was willing to reach across the aisle and work with the other party
        • the firm worked for Northstar Corridor, Heading Home MN, Project 515 and others, all of which have been publicly disclosed.
        • I think gays and lesbians should be equal members in all aspects of our society.
        • I’ve been working to eliminate the statutory discrimination against same-sex partners.
        • The state should lead in promoting responsible sex education, accessible and affordable health care for women (including access to contraception)
        • it’s not whether we should be spending more or less
        • I would opt into the Medicaid option.
        • Providing broader (health care) coverage for MN is key.
        • we also need to keep MN a state in which people like Sam want to live — a healthy environment, protection of our land and water heritage, investments in recretation, etc.
        • I do worry that the separation of church and state is eroding for political gain.
        • Government should assure a healthy environment and protection of our natural assets.

        Horner statements DFLers may seize on…

        • I don’t support the kind of “tax the rich” schemes coming from some candidates
        • unions proposing solutions that will harm Minnesota’s ability to compete or that seek to impose rigid staffing rules or absolute guarantees of job security stifle innovation and business expansion
        • i would reduce corporate income tax,
        • I differ with those labor organizations that…support single-payer health care systems
        • We need to reduce taxes on job creation (corporate income tax, for example) and encourage more investment capital (reduce capital gains, provide incentives for small business by exempting some flow-through, encourage risk capital, etc.)
        • I am not working against the nurses. I am working to make sure the community understands how the labor issues affect what is happening at hospitals.
        • I do think Education MN needs to broaden its agenda beyond job security, and start working with those who are invested in true education reform to produce better outcomes.
        • Start now to move away from government subsidies and toward personal repsonsibility.
        • we need to reduce people’s dependence on government-provided care for older adults.
        • As a rule, government is a better guarantor of rights than a provider of services.

        Also fair amount of issue stuff on his site.

        Love these positions or hate them, the guy isn’t being all that cautious with policy statements. But he’d be a fool to try to jam a laundry list of policy positions into a 30-second ad designed to frame up the broad rationale for his candidacy.

      3. Broaden the sales tax? Reduce corporate income tax? You call that specific? Who is that going to hurt? Dayton is much braver – he’s willing to say WHO is going to get hurt in his tax scheme – and it turns out to be the most powerful members of our society. How is Horner going to close a $6 billion hole by broadening the sales tax, esp. if he cuts corporate taxes? By taxing smokers some more? Why should smokers pay for everything?

        Horner might not accelerate our decline like Emmer would, but he certainly won’t reverse it. His tax and spend proposals – to date – are not serious. They do not add up.

      4. Joe Loveland says:

        ” … (Horner) is offering thoughtful proposals to address a wide range of state problems. ….(I)n the entire field, (Horner) most convincingly describes how reform of both the state tax code and delivery of services could contribute to balancing the state budget.”

        Star Tribune editorial board endorsement

        P.S. I haven’t decided who I’m supporting, so am not promoting Horner. I just think it’s not accurate to say he is only running on none-of-the-aboveism, as I originally thought he was.

      5. Joe Loveland says:

        (The rest of the Strib Editorial Board that made the endorsement: Lori Sturdevant, Scott Gillespie, Jill Burcum, Denise Johnson and John Rash.)

      6. This discussion, if nothing else, points up the difficulty Tom Emmer will have in getting elected. Liberals who aren’t conned by Horner, a life-long Republican, won’t be moving from the DFL. However, it appears that Horner may peel off Republicans who shy away from the extreme positions of the current party. The white-washing going on for Horner in places like this will certainly make him more appealing.

  6. Ellen M says:

    Tom H.: Stupid and creepy ad. It adds nothing of intelligent value to this debate. I hope you ditch it..and quickly. From what I learned when you were a guest on this blog, you’re way smarter than this drek.

    Esme Murphy interviewed Emmer today and he came off as pompous and unctuous. When Murphy asked him for details of his economic plan, he said he’d be “rolling them out” as the days go on.

    What? An election isn’t supposed to be a suspense thriller in which voters are left to read clues and make guesses as to who done it or – in this case – who will get to do it. I really did not appreciate that arrogance.

    I would be interested in hearing more about Horner’s plan. Unfortunately, this ad doesn’t do that.

    1. Not every ad will appeal to everyone, I understand. And it’s not enough for an ad just to be provocative for the sake of provoking. But look at the overhwhelming majority of comments on blogs, in social media, etc. — people are talking about the ad, how it describes the reality of the political environment, and what it says about this year’s choices. This is one 30-second statement in a longer conversation. For what it is intended to do, it’s enormously successful.

  7. Joe Loveland says:

    Emmer’s new ad is solid. Humanizes him at a time when he needs it. I’m thinking The Waltons. A little odd with the teenager preaching supply side economics, though. And I’m just not sure how credible the ubiquitous “I’ll create jobs” claim is to most Minnesotans.

    1. Mike Kennedy says:


      Do you mean it’s odd that a teenager is preaching supply side and not Keynesian economics or that a teenager is even preaching economics at all?

      1. Joe Loveland says:

        I meant it was odd that a teenager would be preaching any kind of economics theory, not just supply side.

        But as I listen more carefully, I have to say that my comment is off base. The kid didn’t advocate anything. He just said that his dad was “always talking about cutting taxes and reforming government.” Nothing odd or off-putting about that. I didn’t listen carefully enough before I wrote that, My mistake.

      2. Mike Kennedy says:

        Well, here’s my point.

        We are churning out a nation of economic illiterates. People don’t understand fundamental economic theory and principles — I’m not talking a subset of economic philosophies like Friedman, Hayek or Keynes. I mean just the basics (read Sowell’s Basic Economics and Tim Taylor’s DVD lecture series from the Teaching Company and you’ll know more economics than most college business graduates).

        Kids have to learn algebra and other nearly useless kinds of math — which 90 percent will never use yet most people don’t learn any economics until college and then only if they major in business.

        If this kid knows economics, he’s in the small minority and I’d be very impressed.

  8. Joe Loveland says:

    And Minnpost’s Jay Wiener reports:

    Meanwhile, in another advertisement (below) that’s sure to draw attention, Horner will be displaying billboard-like ads in the men’s bathrooms at the State Fair, which begins Thursday. Again, going to the left-right extreme theme, Horner is telling men in the restrooms: “Too far right. Too far left. Not good in here. Not good in the governor’s office.”

    1. Newt says:

      So Horner thinks he can alienate 66% of voters to capture the middle 34%?

      It might work if he had Ventura’s flair, but he comes off like a CPA.

      1. Joe Loveland says:

        Sixty-four percent of Minnesotans may be voting for major parties, but 64% of Minnesotans certainly are not in love with the major parties and the recent performance of their elected officials.

      2. Newt says:

        Joe – Horner’s positioning is all wrong.

        Assuming his goal is to syphon off voters from the polarized 64%, his ads offend rather than attract.

        His mistake is lumping in voters with the two political parties. (His message: You voters are stupid for the positions you take.)

        I think he needs to pick one policy position that pleases each side, then live with the fact he will alienate a certain segment from each side.

      3. Joe Loveland says:

        According to an August 2010 NBC/Hart-McInturff national poll, criticizing the parties is hardly a losing proposition:

        Democratic Party:
        Positive: 33% (11% very, 22% somewhat)
        Neutral: 22%
        Negative: 44% (26% very, 18% somewhat)
        Don’t know/not sure: 1%

        Republican Party:
        Positive: 24% (6% very, 18% somewhat)
        Neutral: 28%
        Negative: 46% (22% very, 24% somewhat)
        Don’t know/not sure: 2%

        Only 17% feel “very positive” about one of the parties.

  9. I find this whole focus on ads to be very sad. It is a throwback to the past when people had little access to the candidates spoken word and record of public service…which is silly to use now in an internet information age.

    The last things I want to use to decide my vote are–
    1) Any political ad,
    2) Any comment from a pundit, especially a surrogate, and
    3) Anyone reviewing 1) or 2) above.

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      Were we writing a blog about sewing or political philosophy, we wouldn’t write about ads. But because we’re writing a blog about communications, ads and their tremendous impact on behavior will continue to be a topic. I can appreciate the fact that it isn’t an interest of yours, though.

      1. You mis-understand me Joe, it is not my level of interest at play here, it is my understanding of the candidates and the policies they are running on that is at play. Ads rarely add to understanding either the person or policies…that is why I find them sad.

        Ads, and surrogates, and pundits, and all the way along to people like you and me now commenting out circling beyond these suns…they spin, cloak, and even distract and distort the political realities we are trying to understand so as to cast an informed vote.

        That is what I am trying to get at, I hope this is more clear. If you were to review based on–
        (1) Extends our understanding of the candidate, and
        (2) Clarifies the candidate’s platform.
        –that would give us a better chance to be informed, no?

  10. Joe Loveland says:

    Other Mike, I think I understand. Thanks for clarifying. Let me elaborate a bit too…

    As a citizen, and a bit of a policy wonk, I’m with you. I want to know the details of what these guys stand for too. A 30-second ad will always be a lousy place to communicate detail, but I do want to get it somewhere — in news coverage, on their website, in debates, in blog conversations… somewhere. I strongly agree with you there, and also appreciate Horner stepping up with more detail yesterday.

    BUT, as someone analyzing the effectiveness of ads, I have to always focus on the ad’s goal. What is the ad supposed to achieve? The goal of a candidate’s ads is not necessarily to clarify the candidate’s platform. The goal of the ad is to persuade voters and win.

    I’ve sat through lots of swing voter focus groups, and I’ve seen that swing voters are persuaded by digestable and compelling messages and images, likeability, crystalizing and clarifying metaphors, and broad values-based themes…not, for the most part, the candidate’s detailed platform. Many political activists are persuaded by their detailed platform, but most swing voters are not.

    Because of that, an ad that focused on a laundry list of issue positions might warm my heart and yours, but it wouldn’t be persuasive for most swing voters, and therefore would be an ad that isn’t achieving its goal. And an ad that isn’t achieving its goal isn’t a good ad, even if I personally like it.

    Again, this is not to say that candidates shouldn’t clarify their platform. They should. But they have to realize that of all the message delivery vehicles at their disposal, a 30-second ad is pretty much the worst possible place to deliver a policy seminar. It’s a very efficient way to reach voters on a cost-per-contact basis, but trying to cram too much into them renders them ineffective.

    Hope that helps clarify my perspective…

  11. Well clarified. My concern will continue to be the effect of political advertising toward dumbing down the citizens. Enabling lowest common denominator behaviours to rule–their worst habits like sloth and ignorance while appealing to their worst characteristics like fear and bigotry.

    What good even is a great positive ad, if the person who developed the ad moves on to the next ad campaign, leaving behind the voters now stuck with the candidate that has none of the talent and skill and ideas expressed in the ad? They might even have ‘approved this ad’…but do they have the political will to do what needs to be done, party triangulation be damned?

    That is why I’m happy to suffer through our flawed candidates trying to articulate their views and policies (and I’m NOT a policy wonk, never have been and only suffer through it for casting my votes), and that is why I try to avoid all advertising and gloss over the punditry/chatting class to glean out the hidden policy gems.

    I’m trying to elevate the content of the discussion, to get all parties (voters and candidates of all angles) to seek out and judge themselves based on MLK’s frame of reference–the content of their character.

Comments are closed.