Brown’s Sensitive TV Ad For Women: What If Warren Tried A Blatant Appeal To Men?

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A screenshot from Sen. Scott Brown's TV ad. (YouTube)
A screenshot from Sen. Scott Brown's TV ad. (YouTube)

Have you wondered about the Scott Brown TV spot where his wife, Gail Huff, praises him as a husband and father?

The commercial has been running for a month. At first I assumed it was just an intro spot, soon to be replaced by substantive policy messages. But, given its longevity, apparently his team believes it is important and persuasive.

The obvious purpose is to enhance Brown’s appeal to women. He has the usual Republican gender gap — strong with men, weaker with women. And challenger Elizabeth Warren has tried to widen that gap, declaiming at the Democratic state convention, “We stand with women!” But does the Brown spot inspire women?

Voters want to be represented by someone they like and trust. And Gail Huff, a popular television reporter, seems very sincere. But do women believe an ad where the candidate's wife attests to his sensitivity to women? Apparently yes; the ad is still running.

Does this set a precedent for Massachusetts? In the future will we be suspicious if a candidate's spouse does NOT testify to his or her supportiveness at home?

At the end, Gail says Scott is “by far the most understanding of women of any man I know” and he says, "I approve this message." That shows his sensitivity. If he disapproved of her praise, that wouldn't be supportive, right? Still, I suppose some might wonder if it isn't immodest to say, in effect, "I approve the message that I'm the most understanding of women of any man my wife has ever met"?

It reminds me of that Seinfeld episode where Morty Seinfeld mistakenly thinks Jerry gave him a "#1 Dad" T-shirt... a “gesture” he says is the nicest thing Jerry ever did for him, which irks Jerry since he had also given his father a Cadillac.

To counter Brown’s sensitive commercial, what if Warren's ad team decides she needs a TV spot targeted to men? Perhaps we will soon see something like this:

TV SPOT: Elizabeth Warren walks into her living room and notices white socks on the floor. She picks them up and says to the camera: "I don't mind when my professor husband leaves ‘homework’ on the floor. He's got his own life to live, and I support him any way I can. If he golfs 36 holes instead of 18, and still wants to play poker all night with his pals, that’s fine. When he says it's my turn to take out the trash, I say, ‘Why do you even have a turn? I’ll do that chore from now on — after all, I make most of the garbage by cooking and cleaning the house.’ ”

Warren picks up the remains of a sandwich on the couch. She shrugs, and winks at the camera. "Guys will be guys." She walks to a LazyBoy recliner, where her husband is snoring while gripping a bottle of Stella Artois. She tiptoes to the TV, turns off a ballgame, and whispers to the camera: "I approve this message."

By the way, the rule that candidates must say, “I approve this message” was intended to deter campaigns from running anonymous attack ads. By stipulating that candidates had to voice their approval personally, it was expected that they’d be unwilling to authorize ads that would be viewed as malicious in the extreme. No one worried that some ads might be so extremely flattering that candidates would be too embarrassed to voice approval. And so far, that’s not a problem. Excessive humility is still not a threat to the republic.

This program aired on July 10, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Todd Domke Twitter Republican Political Analyst
Todd Domke is a Republican political analyst for WBUR.