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Christine O'Donnell's Ad Creator: The Wizard Behind 'I'm Not a Witch'

3 years ago
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Will Christine O'Donnell be forever branded a witch?
She may, unless she quickly transforms into Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz," which she says she is considering as her Halloween costume.
She could do another campaign ad, featuring her resplendent in a blue-and-white gingham dress and red sparkling shoes while holding a Toto dog. "Are you a good witch or a bad witch?" an off-camera announcer might ask.
"Oh, I'm not a witch at all! I'm Dorothy from Kansas. I mean Christine from Delaware."
Maybe Fred Davis – the GOP's go-to irreverent ad man of the moment who prefers California to Washington – is in a studio somewhere creating that very ad. "I haven't publicly stated this, and I don't know if I'll get in trouble for saying that, but our intention was to kill it [the witch ad], and that's not what happened," O'Donnell said in an interview with "Good Morning, America" on Thursday.
Davis told Politics Daily via e-mail, "The O'Donnell campaign had to rush full speed ahead into a national, major race, when they started from a small, hopeful primary campaign. It's lightning speed each and every second, making every day a challenge. I think they are doing quite well with it!"
Another O'Donnell ad shot in the same "I'm You" vein goes after her Democratic opponent's education. "I didn't go to Yale," she says of Chris Coons, as piano music plays in the background. Why? Because she's just like you. Click play to watch ad:

O'Donnell is spending a lot of money on ads created by Davis. According to O'Donnell's latest FEC reports, O'Donnell paid Davis' Strategic Perception, Inc. $20,000 on Sept. 24 and $179,855 on Sept. 27.
Davis is not cheap. He created California U.S. Senate GOP nominee Carly Fiorina's now-infamous primary ad against Tom Campbell that featured him as a red-eyed demon in sheep's clothing. According to Fiorina's April FEC report, Carly for California, Inc. paid Strategic Perception $230,784. It was during this time that Davis shot the devil sheep ad.
One of Davis' most famous ads prior to this season was "Celebrity," which juxtaposed President Barack Obama against Paris Hilton and Britney Spears as the biggest celebrity in the world during the 2008 presidential campaign. He was the creative guru behind the 2008 Republican National Convention. "I wrote every word in that damn convention," Davis told The Washington Post.
So why does O'Donnell now regret the ad? Did the candidate not have the final word? Did Davis persuade O'Donnell to go forward with it although her gut told her to leave her witchy ways in the past? Maybe she didn't have a choice. After all, Davis told TIME magazine recently in a profile piece, "We never present three or four ideas, and you pick one. We present one."
To witch or not to witch, that was the possible question facing O'Donnell. As the Washington Post wrote last month, "He [Davis] controls every detail of his ad shoots and writes the scripts. He pushes and pleads with his nervous, starchy candidates to try ideas that other strategists would dismiss as too out-there."
The witch ad may have been too out-there, some say. Joe Erwin, president of Erwin-Penland in Greenville, S.C., who has worked in Democratic politics, said the witch ad was a mistake. "By doing this she played on her opponents' turf and played defense with the critics who were essentially mocking her," Erwin said. "When you open an ad with that sentence, you're digging a deeper hole."
Erwin suggested a better way to handle the witch topic was to have responded with "self-deprecating humor, in a way that people would find her more likeable, and understand that the off-handed comments of a college-aged young woman really are not a threat and not representative of who she is now."
Tom De Luca, a political science professor at Fordham University, said the ad underscores all of O'Donnell's negatives, including that she looks young and not ready for prime time. "We want our politicians to be like us, but we want them to be able deal with the world of politics and power," he said. "That doesn't come through in that ad."

But others say many voters liked the ad. Michael Maslansky of maslansky luntz + partners wrote Thursday that history will likely "look positively on her two backlit campaign ads. Aside from her opening line in the first ad, disclaiming her connections to the dark arts, both ads tested strongly with conservatives and independents, and even broke into positive territory with Dems."
The witch ad – perhaps the most memorable of the midterms – helped raise a lot of campaign cash for O'Donnell from around the country. Even Mistress of the Dark Elvira launched her own parody of the ad Thursday afternoon. Christine O'Donnell may not win the Delaware Senate race, but she's certainly become a household name, thanks to Fred Davis.

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30 Comments

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jbluhm1951

I could name plenty of super intelligent people who could run for office but would not be suited for the position. That is why they don't run. The election is not over until it is over. These personal attacks will not pan out for the Democrats this year. All these so call super intelligent Senators and Congressman who have the majority in both Houses are making stupid decisions which will bankrupt the country and cause so much harm to our country we will not be able to recognize it in 5 years. You can vote in the most educated, the slickess politicians who run, but at the end of the day, what have you got? You have intelligent represenatives who will not do for the people what people expect.

October 24 2010 at 8:46 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
jbluhm1951

The Democrats and the media have finally found someone to use as a punching bag. If nothing else they are having fun doing what they do best, and that is attacking people personally, and tearing down people's reputation. I would tell voters to listen closely to those running for office. You do not have to elect the so called well educated inorder to get a solid and honest representative.

October 24 2010 at 8:07 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
jbluhm1951

I think the country might be better off electing a candidate who is possibly a novice to politics but who is honest and has the intelligence to make concrete decisions, rather than the politicians we now have who some sport PHD's but are dishonest in their dealings.

October 24 2010 at 7:58 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
SouthCounty

Didn't Obama capatalize on his Harvard education? And who, really, relates to a Harvard education or thinks that makes someone a better thinker or leader??? Aren't there too many back east educated non-thinkers in Washington now? I am sure that a whole lot more folk relate to a witch than the big power icons in Washington. Time for a real "Change" and a bit of magical thinking this election !!! We are sure tired of the "Spell" that has been cast in DC this past go around !!!

October 23 2010 at 9:09 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
Barbie & Bill

The Senate race in delaware has to be seen Nationally as a joke, especially condiering the "intelligent" coverage it is getting on the Letterman Show. I am stupified that the Republican Party would support anyone that is so blatantly unqualified to hold a National office. Is this the state of politics in America? Throw mud, point fingers, demean opponents,, but don't ,, under any circumstances, give us an idea of what you bring to the "party" to help repair the problems. Partisan Politics are draining the blood out of this society. It really sucks, to be a voter left always with the lesser of two evils..

October 23 2010 at 1:42 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Barbie & Bill 's comment
rutgersdevil

I had never heard of Coons before this election season but I have been generally favorably impressed buy him. He gives thoughtful statements - not 10 second soundbites and slogans. I guess the biggest knock against him (and this speaks volumes about the media and today's voters) is that he is bald.

October 23 2010 at 5:05 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
jbpotocki

So let me get this right. Christine O'Donnell is going to Washington DC to spend our $ wisely ,yet spends $199.850.00 of Her campaign funds on an ad? Right I'm convinced and impressed---NOT!!!

October 23 2010 at 11:18 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Chuck

I have watched O'donnell fumble through the process showing exactly why the US is so far down on the education scale worldwide. I expect that she will get the guaranteed 33% hard core consistent Conservative vote, but fall short with Independants. So, much like Sarah Palin, she will probably loose. Unlike "Palin" though, not currently being in office, she can't Cut and Run! Though as Palin did, she will make a small fortune as a FOX contributor. Lets face it, who wouldn't read and write, Off The wall comments, as Glen Beck does to the tune of 32 million a year salary!

October 23 2010 at 11:10 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
scorpian777

She'll do fine in this election ----We need a change the person now in charge has no mind of his own!!!!!! GO CHRISTINE!!!!!

October 23 2010 at 10:30 AM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to scorpian777's comment
thirdpartyvote

As a Delaware native, and Independent, I say God forbid.

October 23 2010 at 10:41 AM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
cayce58

Is there room for her on the Palin lecture circuit?

October 23 2010 at 9:28 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
emmaenterprises

Every side points a finger at the other side . Thats why I am a registered Independent. I could careless if she said she practiced witch craft. Tell me what she can do for us.Stop throughing mud. What do you think we the voters think of you when you do that? Shame on her opponent for pulling this "information" out from her past. THE GIRL WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL.Where is the ACLU? My father used to tell me that when you point your finger you have three more pointing back at you.

October 23 2010 at 10:27 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
rutgersdevil

The whole witch business is really not that significant. It is something she said 10 years ago about things she did as a teenager and she seemed to be poking fun at herself. If we are going to talk about items in the candidate's personal life, how about her failure to meet financial obligations, stiifing campaign employees and contractors? As that has occurred within the last year, that seems more relevent.

October 23 2010 at 10:11 AM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply

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