I was watching the IU men’s team play its first Big Ten game against Maryland with a friend on Friday night when I saw it. During the game’s first time out, Mike Braun’s newest commercial in his campaign for Governor of Indiana ran.
When it was done, we turned and looked at each other for a silent moment before my pal broke the silence, asking, “What the hell is he running for?” My question exactly.
Back in October, I evaluated a couple of ads by two other gubernatorial candidates, Brad Chambers and Eric Doden. The theme of that critique was that their first ads were void of the reason, or the “why,” Indiana would be better with either of them in its highest office. Yea, they were the introduction ads, strategically designed to play on Hoosier sensibilities while they politely shake voters’ hands in a digitally manufactured way.
Their task at hand was clear to them both. My disagreement with the strategy was that neither of them made clear what issue, what challenge, what commitment would define their campaigns. Is it taxes? Is it healthcare? Is it education? In those ads, the strategy apparently was, “you can trust me because I am one of you.” Neither of them has run for office before, so, the strategy has merit, even though the lack of any stated policy position made both ads deficient to me.
Braun’s new ad, on the other hand, is offensive.
The ad is titled, “Safer,” but it’s not about how he can make Indiana safer at all.
The first item in the ad covers how he “worked with President Trump to secure our border.” While he speaks of this apparent point of pride, the video shows him shaking the former president’s hand, while a newspaper headline runs at the bottom that states, “Braun says, ‘Secure our own border before another dollar goes overseas.’” That headline is dated October 3rd, days before the Israel/Hamas war began.
This seamlessly flows into his brief discussion of the fentanyl crisis he wants to solve while “Joe Biden does nothing.” That is spoken over a red map of communist China on the left, a map of Indiana on the right with little dots peppering primarily the southern part of the state that I assume signify overdose deaths. Then the middle features a sad, drooping image of the current president, who is Braun’s apparent opponent.
Next is the most quotable of quotes from the ad. Braun looks deeply into the camera and says, “Talk is cheap. Leaders get things done.” Hmm. Fifteen seconds into the ad, I bet we are about to hear some specifics about that.
And there it is–video of Braun’s field trip to the southern border last month. There are action shots of him riding in a boat with a border enforcement officer and shaking hands with a sheriff from the area.
These senator-in-action vids flow nicely into his three-step plan for making Indiana “safer.” First, “deport criminal illegals.” Next, “destroy the cartels.” And finally, “hold China accountable.”
None of these things are in the job description. They are often specifically prohibited from direct state intervention.
The ad makes promises that no governor can keep, and more importantly, no governor should make. Braun understands what the job is, but he apparently believes his voters don’t. Who am I kidding? This strategy has engulfed all GOP campaigns: Vote for me, I’m as generically mad as all of you!
He mentions the most indicted man in America once, and at the end of the ad shows how Trump’s endorsement of him is now the campaign’s title. That’s right. The campaign branding at the end reads: “Endorsed by President Trump, Mike Braun, Republican for Governor.”
My critique of his opponents’ ads back in October centered on my belief that their first ads were “about nothing.” I acknowledged the goals of those ads, even though I thought they missed an opportunity to meaningfully give Hoosiers a reason to listen to them further.
Braun’s ad misses the mark in a whole new and disturbing way. He isn’t running for governor in hopes of one day getting to do the job of governor. It’s as if he is running for the office so that he can be a more notable sycophant to the politician he got into bed with in 2018 when he ran statewide the first time.
And finally, it’s all an act. It began for him during that first senate run six years ago and it has become all he is. Being the Trumpiest of the Trumpy will lead him to electoral success, and at the same time, it will prevent him from actually doing anything worthwhile.