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The best (positive) campaign ad of the cycle?

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (D) is out with a new ad in his bid for the state's open governorship that perfectly captures the anti-politician sentiment coursing through the electorate.

"I'm John Hickenlooper and I guess I'm not a very good politician because I can't stand negative ads," says Hickenlooper as he climbs into a shower with a business suit on. "Every time I see one, I feel like I need to take a shower." (Cue the shower head spraying Hickenlooper in the face.)

The remainder of the 30-second ad, which is running statewide in Colorado and was produced by Democratic media consultants Mark Putnam and Steve Murphy, shows Hickenlooper climbing in and out of the shower -- fully clothed! -- while explaining why he won't run any negative ads in his race this fall.

"Pitting one group against another or one part of Colorado against another doesn't help anyone," Hickenlooper says at the ad's conclusion. "And, besides, we need the water."

The commercial's imagery virtually ensures it will stand out from the scads of other ads -- political and otherwise -- on the Colorado airwaves. And, its message -- "politics stinks and I want to fix it" -- is pitch perfect for an electorate ready to believe the worst about their politicians. (Plus, who doesn't think a grown man taking a shower in a suit is funny?)

While the ad is creative and effective, there are a few mitigating factors that suggest it may be tough for other "outsider" candidates to copy it in their own races.

First and most importantly, the Colorado Republican Party has imploded in recent weeks.
Former Rep. Scott McInnis, long touted as the party's strongest nominee, watched his political stock plummet in the wake of plagiarism charges. That left room for little known Dan Maes, himself struggling under campaign finance fine, to oust McInnis in the Aug. 10 primary.

With Maes as the nominee, it's hard to imagine the Republican Governors Association spending any money on the race and it's equally difficult to see Maes raising the sort of money on his own to compete with Hickenlooper.

That financial mismatch means that the race isn't much of a race and Hickenlooper's pledge of no negative ads is somewhat penalty-free. He gets the benefit of looking like a different sort of politician without running the risk of losing the race to a better funded -- and better known -- Republican who goes negative.

Second, Hickenlooper's background -- he was a geologist and then founded the Wynkoop Brewing Company in the late 1980s -- allows him to sell the quirkiness of the ad with ease. In the hands of a stiffer, more traditional politician, an ad like this one could come across as hokey at best and phony at worst.

Caveats aside, Hickenlooper's ad has surged to the top of the Fix's list for best positive campaign commercials this cycle. (The best negative ad to date? Doesn't it have to be "J.D. Huckster"?) And, it provides a broad thematic blueprint of what to say and how to say it for candidates -- incumbents and challengers alike -- dealing with a very volatile electorate.

By Chris Cillizza  | August 23, 2010; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  Governors  
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