Let’s Keep Our Shirts On, Shall We?

There will be an interesting Senate race in Ohio this year, and already it is starting to get . . . well . . . weird.

The Democratic candidate for the Senate seat is Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher, an old-line Cleveland politician who beat Jennifer Brunner, Ohio’s current Secretary of State, in a heated primary.  The Republican candidate is Rob Portman, a long-time Congressman from the Cincinnati area who also served as the director of the Office of Management and Budget during part of the second term of the Bush Administration.

The weirdness began when Fisher’s son took video footage of Fisher sitting shirtless at a desk late one evening.  Apparently the footage was used in some Ohio Republican Party ad that featured “suggestive music,” although I haven’t seen the ad and haven’t been able to find it on the web.  The Ohio Democratic Party reacted with outrage, then produced a website and commercial featuring a bunch of bare-chested workers who say Rob Portman’s work during the Bush Administration took the shirts off their backs.

All of this seems very strange to me.  I agree with a friend who questions why the Democrats would do anything to increase the name recognition of Portman, who is not well known outside the Cincinnati area.  I also think, however, that the Democratic commercial really leads with its chin.  Most people don’t look good in shirtless mode, and the overweight workers featured on the commercial are no exception.  Frankly, they look pretty well fed for people who are supposed to be out of a job.  And are they advocating protectionism?  That message strikes a jarring note in the era of the Obama Administration, where the federal government has bailed out so many American industries and pumped borrowed “stimulus” money into the economy — without doing much of anything to stimulate real job growth.  Are they complaining that we need to do even more to allow union workers to keep their jobs and high-value benefits?

The other point of the commercial is to criticize the budget deficits during the Bush Administration, which is odd because the Obama Administration is presiding over much larger budget deficits that stretch far into the foreseeable without and promise of reduction.  Do the Democrats really want to call attention to deficit spending under the circumstances?  Are they saying Lee Fisher is going to be a more hard-bitten budget-cutter than Portman?

The election is still months away, and I imagine the parties and their candidates will be experimenting with “messaging” as the election draws nearer.  The “shirtless” commercial seems like a failed experiment to me.  I’d appreciate it if the parties and candidates would keep their shirts on until we get closer to the election.

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