Elizabeth Warren's Spokesmodels
The U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent Scott Brown and his Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren is one of the most watched in the country. For anyone who’s not totally swept up in campaign events, that means TV ads. Brown and Warren have vowed to keep mudslinging ads off the airwaves, which has led to a series of rather uninteresting commercials.
Elizabeth Warren, whose ads fall under the microscope in this post, has proven that with a trademark sign-off smirk, some specific policy ideas, and a bunch of what appear to be actors, finding the balance between fierce and electable can be difficult. (Check out this analysis of what we know of Scott Brown from his ads.) OK, let’s get started.
Representative Quote: Warren: “For years I’ve worked to expose how Wall Street and the big banks are crushing the middle class. It just isn’t right.”
What We Learn: This is Warren’s first ad from Nov. 13, 2011, so a lot of this biographical stuff is old hat by now. The language she’s using is faintly militant (e.g. “an army of Washington lobbyists, and “crushing” debt). The most interesting thing is she opens by mentioning her dad sold carpet. It will be interesting to see how that occupation evolves over time.
Policy pronouncements: 0; People who think Elizabeth Warren is rad*: 1
Representative Quote: Warren: “Karl Rove” “attacking” “attack” “attacking” “attacking” “Karl Rove” “attack”
What We Learn: “Attack” can be said once every 10 seconds before it loses all meaning. Even by December 9, 2011, it’s pretty clear the Warren campaign was going to run against Republicanism or Conservatism (rather than Scott Brown the person). We also learn that Warren ain’t afraid to do a single-shot 53 second spot.
Policy pronouncements: 0; People who think Elizabeth Warren is rad: 1
Representative Quote: Barack Obama: “Elizabeth Warren. She’s a janitor’s daughter who has become one of the country’s fiercest advocates for the middle class.”
What We Learn: So, wait, Warren’s dad was a janitor? I thought she said he was a carpet salesman. The final frame of this ad contains an excellent example of crazy eyes—not like these ones, but still pretty good.
Policy pronouncements: 0; People who say Elizabeth Warren is rad: 2
Representative Quote: Random woman: “Her father is a janitor. My father is a janitor.”
What We Learn: Janitor, FTW. In this first ad where Warren doesn’t speak, we get the usual digest of favorable press snippets, as well as a good helping of actor-looking people with Boston accents who mostly do a good job nailing their lines. Brown’s campaign went for recognizable faces and names in their ads, but Warren’s people could be anyone.
Policy pronouncements: 0; People who say Elizabeth Warren is rad: 6
Representative Quote: Warren: “Why aren’t we rebuilding America?”
What We Learn: Five ads in, we get the first policy talk—and it will surprise no one to hear Warren is in favor of federal spending. This time, the money would go toward building roads and bridges as the basis for an economy that can keep up with China.
Policy pronouncements: 1; People who say Elizabeth Warren is rad: 1
Representative Quote: Warren: “Our kids are crushed by debt, and they didn’t go on a shopping spree.” Warren again: “Washington’s giving billions to big oil and tax breaks to millionaires.”
What We Learn: Who, exactly, in Washington is doing those things? I’m pretty sure the President is a Democrat, and the Senate also leans Democrat, not that it matters. In this ad, Warren digs in against Conservatives (I guess—she never actually names anyone) and allies herself with students, who never vote anyway.
Policy pronouncements: 1(ish); People who say Elizabeth Warren is rad: 1
Representative Quote: Diane Sawyer: “[Elizabeth Warren is] the founding mother of the agency to help consumers, she said, get straight talk from banks.”
What We Learn: Whoa, whoa, the mother? Would you say that about a man, Diane Sawyer? Talking heads, two talking people-who-look-like-actors, and bunch of background randoms abound in this one. Also, again, Warren wants to hold the banks accountable, but it’s starting to get frustrating how vague she is about how to do that.
Policy pronouncements: 1(ish); People who say Elizabeth Warren is rad: 3
Representative Quote: Warren: “Women still don’t get equal pay for equal work. Republicans blocked that.”
What We Learn: Finally, Warren uses the R word, which seems like it would’ve been a no-brainer much sooner. No mention of Scott Brown, still. I guess the theory is why name your opponent and let the people of Massachusetts know that there is a Republican running for something. Also, five nonplussed ladies who appear to be of child-bearing age.
Policy pronouncements: 3; People who think Elizabeth Warren is rad: 1
* Includes Warren herself.