By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the new Herman Cain video, featuring his chief of staff Mark Block taking a drag off a cigarette. It’s probably the weirdest ad I’ve seen from a serious campaign since Carly Fiorina’s “Demon Sheep” web ad.
It’s a mistake. The campaign should be about Herman Cain. It’s not like Cain is not likable enough — or not doing well enough — that he needs to find surrogates.
And even if he did need a surrogate, I’m pretty sure Mark Block wouldn’t be the guy. Why not feature an average young supporter — instead of a grizzled, chain smoking, campaign operative?
Campaigns get into trouble when the advisers and operatives start seeking their own publicity. Typically, the men behind the curtains ought to stay there. Just as it was not in Michele Bachmann’s best interest to have Ed Rollins yapping to the press, I can’t imagine a video featuring Mark Block will further Cain’s cause (except, of course, among highly sought after cohort of crotchety, male, middle-aged, heavy smokers).
Sure, this video will generate attention and buzz — people stop to watch car wrecks, too.
But Cain doesn’t need attention or buzz — he has that already — what he needs is to be perceived as a serious candidate. He needs to be perceived as presidential. This does nothing to further that cause, and, in fact, it detracts from it.
The only good news is that this ad probably does more to keep kids from smoking than anything the anti-smoking groups could have produced.