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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Video shocker: Is it a Tim Pawlenty political spot or an ad for a Hollywood thriller?

Tim_pawlenty Sometimes you get the feeling that politics has gone totally Hollywood. When former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced his run for the presidency the other day (well, he actually announced the formation of an exploratory committee, which is pol-speak for "Hey everybody, I'm going for it!"), he did it with a video that looked a heck of a lot like a Hollywood movie trailer.

It's loaded with distressed and washed-out film stock, herky-jerky camera work and off-kilter camera angles, people moving in and out of frame and, of course, the kind of stirring orchestral music that is supposed to rouse your emotions. It's only when you listen to the soundtrack, with all the usual buzz words ("limit government spending...tackle entitlements...get ahead without government getting in the way...") that you realize it's a political ad.

It was so visually striking that I would have half-guessed that Pawlenty had dug deep into his pockets and hired Pete Berg or Zach Snyder to shoot the footage. But as it turns out, Pawlenty is using a 22-year-old wunderkind named Lucas Baiano, who as Swampland's Michael Scherer informs us, got his start volunteering for Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign. After Clinton dropped out of the presidential race, Baiano volunteered for the McCain campaign and ended up making a series of highly charged "Remember November" spots for the Republican Governors Assn. He's also shot a host of videos for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

I've put up a few spots that you can watch. I found them fascinating. One of the Christie spots is so loaded with grim, grainy footage of pre-Christie run-down New Jersey that it almost looks like it was swiped from outtakes from "Blue Valentine." Baiano is very clever. He makes Pawlenty, who is famously dull, look forceful and decisive while shooting Christie the way cinematographers used to shoot Steven Seagal after he got fat. You never see Christie's ample waistline--Baiano only shows his broad shoulders and expressive face. In fact, at one point, he actually photo-shops out Christie's corpulent frame when he's standing at a podium, to give him a more slender looking frame.

I showed the clips to a studio marketing chief, asking for his assessment of Baiano's work on the Pawlenty ad. His thoughts: "This guy is a good editor with a strong bag of visual tricks. but the Pawlenty clip reminds me of movie advertising that is trying to fool the public into buying a ticket for a bad movie--quick cuts, off-centered shots, edgy without being off-putting. The best thing is that he hides Pawlenty as much as Disney hid Miley Cyrus in 'The Last Song' campaign. The frame hardly ever holds on him, and then gets off his face immediately. Sarah Palin would just look right into the camera and blow us all away. No stock footage needed for her, no siree. Still, this guy is good--he's got a career at any movie trailer company waiting for him."    

--Patrick Goldstein

Take a look at some of Baiano's spots and see what you think. Here's his Pawlenty ad:

Tim Pawlenty Exploratory Committee for President of the United States Visual Announcement from Tim Pawlenty on Vimeo.

Here's some of the spots for Governor Christie:

Photo: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaking at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition event earlier this month in Waukee, Iowa.

Credit: Steve Pope / Getty Images

Comments () | Archives (2)

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Pawlenty can make all the impressive ads he wants. I'm sure he is an earnest and smart man, and might even make a decent president. However -- and vapid as it may seem, it does matter -- he has zero charisma. And a successful presidential candidate needs that.

A commercial is a commercial, whether it's selling toilet paper or a presidential candidate. The technique is the same, and the purpose is the same: you must buy this amazing product or your life is a failure!

I have a very large problem with candidates who sell themselves as a product. Trumpeting the qualities of a brand of toilet paper is one thing; selling something as complex and important as one's qualifications to be president, or one's thoughts and ideas for solving any of the very difficult problems facing the country in thirty seconds to a minute is bound to result in simplification to the point of meaninglessness and fatuity.

This incident will only deepen my contempt for Pawlenty, which is already an abyss, because I resent having my intelligence insulted. For decades the Republicans have been insulting my intelligence to the point that their ads can only arouse deep anger and antagonism in my mind.

Of course, the products the GOP has tried to sell me through the years have all been of poor quality. Nixon, Reagan, both Bushes, Dan Quayle, John McCain and Sarah Palin, Pawlenty, Mitt Romney,Michelle Bachman, Christine O'Donnell, Newt Gingrich, and any other Republican clowns like Boehner and McConnell are not the kind of merchandise I'd care to purchase! I want value for my money and my vote. As far as I'm concerned, all the above mentioned people are damaged or irregular goods, and worthless!

I didn't agree with Bob Dole, but he seemed to me to at least be a decent man. However, Gingrich seems to possess and be proud of, an especially despicable, unpleasant persona, and Sarah Palin is close behind him. Nixon, of course, took these qualities to unattainable heights(lows?), and the other names I mentioned are either grinning buffoons like Quayle, or mindless morons like Bachmann or O'Donnell.

Their alleged "ideology" is chaotic and ill-formed, is illogical, and dwells on an illusory, hazy vision of some non-existent edenic time in the history of the US, and the GOP certainly does not have the best interests of the majority of citizens at heart. That's why the attempt to market these people is so offensive and hypocritical to me.


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