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Ad Wars: Graves' "San Francisco" Ad

As the fight for Congress heats up over the coming weeks and months, The Fix will, from time to time, pluck out an ad (or ads) worth watching.

We define "worth watching" pretty broadly here at the Fix. Some ads will make the cut due to the their national implications, others for their focus on a key local or regional issues. Funny and creative ads -- both good and bad -- will make the list. We'll even throw in some wildcards, ads that are so offbeat or unorthodox that we aren't sure what to make of them.

If you come across a commercial you think is worth spotlighting on The Fix's "Ad Wars" segment, feel free to email me at chris DOT cillizza AT washingtonpost DOT com. (And, yes, media consultants you should feel free to peddle your own wares as well.)

The inaugural edition of Ad Wars highlights an ad that fits squarely into the "wildcard" category. The commercial is being run by Rep. Sam Graves (R) who is being challenged in the northwest Missouri 6th District by former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes (D). The race is widely expected to be competitive in the fall.

Here's the ad:

WHOAH. So much for subtlety.

Looking for some more explanation about the reasoning behind running an ad like this one so early in the campaign, The Fix sought out Jeff Roe -- a longtime Graves' consultant.

"It's a water cooler ad," said Roe, acknowledging that part of the goal of the commercial was to drive buzz about the race. (Mission accomplished!) He added that the idea for the ad was to "set the hook" for the fall campaign against Barnes by using her trip to San Francisco for a fundraiser with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) to talk about issues like gay marriage, abortion and illegal immigration.


One prominent Republican media consultant granted anonymity to speak candidly derided the ad's "low" production values and added: "If this is the best hit they have then Sam Graves is in real trouble."

[Capitol Briefing analyzed the ad in the context of its attack on Pelosi.]

Barnes, not surprisingly, quickly went up with a response ad that is equally sharp although not nearly as suggestive.

Here's Barnes' ad:

The most effective moment? When the image of the three people dancing in Graves' ad is shown while the narrator says: "So maybe this is really all Sam Graves has left."

What's your take on the ads? The comments section awaits.

By Chris Cillizza  |  May 21, 2008; 4:42 PM ET
Categories:  Ad Wars  
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Next: Clinton's Convention Fight Comments


How embarassing for us Missourians! I unfortunately live in Graves district, and every opponent he has faced has had to put up with these ridiculous ads against them. His last opponent was in a wheelchair and he accused her of working for Hustler magazine! I am just hoping this time the district will wisen up and boot his butt out of Washington!!

Posted by: momfrommissouri | May 30, 2008 6:52 PM | Report abuse

As a resident of San Francisco, I am disgusted by this homophobic advertisement. Yes, we in SF embrace diversity and the idea that no two people are alike. You don't see us running commercials portraying stereotypes about people from Missouri... and believe me, there are PLENTY.

P.S. Gay men and women have WAY better taste in music and are WAY better dancers than portrayed here... ;)

Posted by: offended | May 28, 2008 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I'm a little mystified by the Hillary posts - someone got let out of the funny farm a little too early...

Back to the ads - I loved the cheesiness of the Graves ad and the professionalism (by sticking to facts and issues) of the Barnes ad.

Hmmm - maybe I should send her a check!

Posted by: Header | May 22, 2008 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Back in my lobbying days I had to talk to that jerk Graves. His subtlety is right up there with his intelligence: lacking. He's Missouri's answer to Oklahoma's Jim Inhofe. Please, Lord, let him be swept out of office with most of the other GOP flotsam in November.

Posted by: Soonerthought | May 22, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised no one's pointing out the not-so-subliminal main message of the ad: the dancers.

The black guy in the middle barely glances at the black girl. Instead, he looks the white girl up and down in what can only be described as a 'lascivious' way. The 'suggestive' dancing is between the black guy and the white girl, not the black guy and the black girl.

It's along the same lines as the Harold Ford ad with the white girl inviting him to party or dance or whatever.

I'd appreciate knowing who came up with this ad. Wikipedia could use an article about campaign ad controversies.

Posted by: Tom J | May 22, 2008 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Ouch! Kay Barnes' "San Francisco values" clearly include kicking Republicans' arses. That's a value we can all respect.

As usual in GOP ads, a black guy is shown moving in on white girls. It's every GOP male's deepest fear, you know.

Posted by: OD | May 22, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Do we really need the Hillary troops in this string? I mean, seriously.

Back on topic, the Graves add is hysterical. Note that I'm not saying it's "okay", it's laugh out loud funny, which I'm guessing is not what he's looking for...

The Barnes ad hits a great note and (I think) is more likely to strike a chord with swing voters and independents. I love how they puts in the dancers.

Good stuff! We could use a little levity in these things!

Posted by: scott032 | May 22, 2008 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Hilarious ads, pathetic posters, whose postings are spittle-flecked rants on HRC/BHO instead of comments on your piece.

Posted by: Goldyguy | May 22, 2008 10:35 AM | Report abuse

It will be interesting if the Graves ad has any impact on anyone but the true believers. My guess is the Barnes ad will be much more effective. It is proof that Republican have nothing to run on other than hate.

Posted by: Bradcpa | May 22, 2008 7:41 AM | Report abuse

Pelosi just came out and said that sexism is not an issue for Hillary Clinton in this presidential nomination process:

Posted by: Pelosi's Proof | May 22, 2008 2:45 AM | Report abuse

i am probably a conservative liberal and i don't care if gays get married, if women get abortions or if illegals come here as long as they do not commit crimes

what i do care about

having someone who is experienced and not only has 143 days of "experience" in the senate before announcing he is running for president

obama was a cokehead drug dealer who hates the white part of himself because it is there via violence (his reference towards the black panther guy) - so fine - we have had a cokehead loser - and plenty of people are potheads, druggies, fine - whatever


obama does not have experience

obama race bates

obama tries to humiliate and put down women

obama arrogantly talks about how bitter others are (not a word used about one's self) and arrogantly does not campaign in all states

obama is low class in the way he baffooned himself regarding hillary being annie oakley, etc.

seriously, we have had one nut too many

why not have an experienced person who loves this country?

i voted hillary

i will vote hillary

i have donated to hillary

i have called for hillary

i have campaigned for hillary

i will never give up on our future president because she will never give up on us

Posted by: our next commander in chief hillary clinton | May 22, 2008 2:04 AM | Report abuse

I'm thinking about sending Barnes a check just because that was one of the best ads I've seen in a long time

Posted by: Theo | May 22, 2008 2:02 AM | Report abuse

just written:

May 22 (Bloomberg) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said women won't suffer a ``step back'' if Democrat Hillary Clinton loses her presidential bid, and rejected the idea of sexism in the presidential campaign.

HERE YOU GO, glad it doesn't exist:

pelosi, brazille, boxer - all dems who support obama - these are they type of "sweetie"'s that would sell their own daughters to get ahead but could never support another woman to get ahead.

no surprise boxer also raised money for obama

obama does not have the experience yet these women support him. why?

Hillary will become our nominee DESPITE these type of women!

Posted by: pelosi is a judas traitor | May 22, 2008 1:57 AM | Report abuse

I really enjoyed both ads. I really don't care whether Sam Graves is gay or not, but I guess maybe people in his district will.

Posted by: aleks | May 22, 2008 1:17 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: SoDem | May 21, 2008 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Why does Graves hate America? Last time I checked, San Franciscans were Americans...

Given his contempt for San Franciscans, he has no right to make laws that will govern their lives.

Posted by: Adam Ricketson | May 21, 2008 9:57 PM | Report abuse

I don't get it.

"80's parties" aren't Missouri values?

Who knew?

Posted by: Steve | May 21, 2008 8:31 PM | Report abuse


Obama's campaign theme has been destroyed by his own actions. Obama has made his own campaign theme a FRAUD.

That is Obama's major problem right now.

I do not see how he gets out of it. South Carolina was a mistake. Calling out Gerry Ferraro was stupid. Telling the Superdelegates to be fearful of a race revolt if they do not vote for Obama is out of control.

Obama has disqualified himself.

He has shown his inexperience and perhaps complete lack of ability to lead ALL the people of this nation. It's over for Obama - the people of this nation have seen enough already.

Posted by: Words of Wisdom | May 21, 2008 7:35 PM | Report abuse


Obama's campaign theme has been destroyed by his own actions. Obama has made his own campaign theme a FRAUD.

That is Obama's major problem right now.

I do not see how he gets out of it. South Carolina was a mistake. Calling out Gerry Ferraro was stupid. Telling the Superdelegates to be fearful of a race revolt if they do not vote for Obama is out of control.

Obama has disqualified himself.

He has shown his inexperience and perhaps complete lack of ability to lead ALL the people of this nation. It's over for Obama - the people of this nation have seen enough already.

Posted by: Words of Wisdom | May 21, 2008 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Barnes's only regret may be her spot's reference to that cheap $3.63/gal. gas. By mid-summer that price'll look pretty good.

Can't really blame Graves, though - his gutter style is all he's ever been taught.

Posted by: FlownOver | May 21, 2008 6:57 PM | Report abuse

This is not the year of the Republicans.

Rep. Graves deserves to be voted out of congress for this type of third rate effort.

Posted by: piktor | May 21, 2008 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Tim Russert confronts Obama about playing the race card (his "4 pages of talking points":

Posted by: Anonymous | May 21, 2008 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Someone needs to tell Graves it isn't 2002 anymore. We've got bigger things to worry about than the homos.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 21, 2008 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Wow, what a cringe-inducer! I appreciated the subtle choice of two minorities among the three dancers, just to drive home the point that "they're different". What a moron.

Posted by: davestickler | May 21, 2008 6:14 PM | Report abuse

The word this election cycle is "Pathetic" because that is all you can say about what most politos have to offer

Posted by: nclwtk | May 21, 2008 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Pathetic on both candidates' substance, just insulting each other.

Hooray for Libs...Hooray for Cons.

Sad day for America.

Are there no issue needing attention in San Francisco? Both candidates should be avoided totally.

Posted by: RUFUS | May 21, 2008 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Response to mibrooks27 and kreuz_missile


I can tell you this: no one likes how you have been pretending that the math is all on your side, that the numbers are impossible - all to convince the Superdelegates to back your side.

The truth is Obama does not have the majority and he might never.

Then when you don't get the Superdelegates to back your side, you go RACIAL, and you threaten a RACE REVOLT.

THAT is a RACIST argument.

ARE the whites threatening to RIOT if Obama gets the nomination ???? YOU are turning this into a COMPLETELY RACIST CAMPAIGN BY SAYING THE SUPERDELEGATES SHOULD VOTE BY RACE.


The TRUTH is that the RACIST tactics of the Obama campaign DISQUALIFIES him from being President - he is showing his inexperience and quite frankly showing the country that he should never be President.


Posted by: 37th&OStreet | May 21, 2008 6:06 PM | Report abuse

This is the most hilariously bad political ad since the classic 50,000 VOLTS! from Ohio-1 in 2006.

Posted by: SDM | May 21, 2008 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Love Barnes' response.

Posted by: P Diddy | May 21, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Love the dancing trio. They look like they're having a good time.

Posted by: Mason | May 21, 2008 5:27 PM | Report abuse

This ad was on Wonkette yesterday. Its a classic.

Posted by: UrsusM | May 21, 2008 5:25 PM | Report abuse

San Freancisco is such a beautiful and peaceful place, why always attack it? Because people live togethter in toleration of religion, race and social mores. Too bad Kentuckyians don't feel the same way.

Posted by: mitchell kaplan | May 21, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Graves is digging his own Grave - fitting.

Posted by: Steve | May 21, 2008 5:04 PM | Report abuse

What an awesome ad...hahahahahahahaha

You've got to find it funny...

Posted by: VA Democrat | May 21, 2008 5:04 PM | Report abuse

POW! The Fix is back! Now that Obama is the nominee, we can get back to the good stuff.

We'll be seeing lots and lots of this, and the entertainment value of this election cycle will be the better for it. In 2006 all we had was Macaca and Call Me, Harold - multiply that by however more desperate the GOP is this time around, as it will be a prime source of mud.

Posted by: bondjedi | May 21, 2008 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Kay Barnes must be THANKING Sam Graves. She couldn't do a better job of showing how much of a neanderthal this guy is. I bet San Franciscans are really sending Barnes money now!

Posted by: MissouriGuy | May 21, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

What a fitting response from Ms Barnes. I think these sorts of tawdry smear ads really are best rebuffed by returning to a discussion of the issues.

Posted by: Krunj | May 21, 2008 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Sam GRAVES. What a prophetic and telling last name. It will nice to watch this man's long overdue political death.

Posted by: RIP GOP | May 21, 2008 4:48 PM | Report abuse

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