Gail Collins / Campaign mishaps, 2014 edition

If it's photogenic, so what if it shows Paris or Pittsburgh?

Share with others:


Print Email Read Later

Here’s the latest life lesson from the campaign trail: If you are, say, making a home movie about how great your family is, try to remember to use pictures of your actual relatives and not random attractive strangers.

We bring you this important tip from South Dakota, where Mike Rounds, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, came up with a debut video in which he tells prospective voters that the rest of the nation “could learn a lot from the people of South Dakota.” Meanwhile, the viewer is treated to pictures of folks building houses, having meetings, playing with the family — doing all sorts of positive things that presumably exemplify the state’s wholesome lifestyle.

Unfortunately, it turns out that they are stock photos from parts unknown. Except we did learn that the fetching woman holding her pen at that meeting is actually in Paris.

“It was a matter of trying to be good stewards with our client’s budget,” said John Pohlman, an executive for the Rounds creative team. In South Dakota, the controversy has devolved into an argument about whether this piece was the first ad of the campaign or just something thrown casually together as a sort of experiment. But not a commentary on whether South Dakotans are photogenic! Be fair.

We’re likely to run into a lot of this kind of screw-up before November. (Perhaps you remember last year when New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner triumphantly opened his new website with a banner that featured a skyline shot of Pittsburgh.) They certainly help pass the time, but should we ever care?

The answer is that you should not criticize a politician for doing something that you could easily imagine yourself doing, too. For instance, last week Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana walked into a committee hearing and started happily questioning a witness — until his aide slipped him a note pointing out that Mr. Coats had gone to the wrong meeting and was querying a person who had no idea whatsoever what he was talking about. I believe I speak for many Americans when I say that given the excitement level of most Senate hearings, this seems perfectly plausible.

On the other hand, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky recently released a video about the glories of his home state that featured what was supposed to be a triumphant local basketball team but was in fact hated Kentucky rival Duke. Misidentifying a bunch of college athletes is something else that I could totally understand. But there appear to be a lot of people out there who will never, ever get over it. This happened just as the NCAA tournament was getting into high gear, and, honestly, you’d have thought that Mr. McConnell ran across the court naked at halftime.

One of the few potentially significant disasters so far occurred in Iowa, where Rep. Bruce Braley, the leading Democratic contender for the Senate, got caught warning some Texas trial lawyers that if Republicans won a majority, the Judiciary Committee would be run by Sen. Chuck Grassley, “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.” It sounded terrible. Although, to be fair, you could imagine somebody like Mr. Grassley warning a roomful of farmers about the possibility of a trial lawyer running the Agriculture Committee.

Everybody zeroed in on the farmer-denigration angle, forcing Mr. Braley to send out a news release listing his own personal ties to the land, including many youthful hours spent detasseling corn and baling hay. In which the words “detasseling” and “baling” were both unfortunately misspelled.

Oh, Iowa, Iowa. We spend so much time thinking about Iowa, home of the first presidential caucuses, which seem to go on for at least two years. (This just in: new poll finds Mike Huckabee leading the Republican field among Iowa senior citizens!) Iowa gets so much attention, it seems unfair that it has a hot Senate race, too.

You may have heard about Joni Ernst, a hitherto obscure candidate for the Republican nomination, who became famous overnight with her now-immortal castration video, in which she brags about her early experience on the farm, neutering hogs. The video won her a mention on “The Tonight Show,” and the triumphant Ms. Ernst posted an invitation to watch the video on the Web, next to a picture of a rather optimistic-looking porker. However, as Michael McAuliff reported in The Huffington Post, the animal in question was actually in a stock photo from Denmark.

Oh, Joni Ernst campaign! Iowa has 20 million pigs, and you go for the equivalent of the Frenchwoman at the meeting.

The candidate’s spokesman issued a lighthearted statement claiming the hog “was born and raised in Holland but eventually legally emigrated to Iowa,” and reminding everybody that Bruce Braley had misspelled “bale.”

Holland is actually not in Denmark. But it’s been that kind of year.

Gail Collins is a syndicated columnist for The New York Times.


Join the conversation:

Commenting policy | How to report abuse
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.
Commenting policy | How to report abuse

You have 2 remaining free articles this month

Try unlimited digital access

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here

You’ve reached the limit of free articles this month.

To continue unlimited reading

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here