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Ad Wars: Norm Coleman and the Power of the Puck

In a political environment as treacherous as this one for Republicans, there's still one tried and true strategy to court voters: pork.

As we have written before, Republican incumbents have already surmised that their best strategy to win -- given President Bush's unpopularity, the tarnishing of the Republican brand and the huge number of people who believe the country is heading in the wrong direction -- is to remind voters of what they have delivered during their tenure in office.

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) is the latest incumbent on the transactional bandwagon with a new ad in his race against entertainer Al Franken and, possibly, former governor Jesse Ventura (I). (Check this space later tonight for an update on Ventura's candidacy; he is set to announce his decision on whether or not to run on "Larry King Live" tonight.)

Let's take a look at the ad.

If there was any question about Coleman's appeal in this race ("I can get things you want"), it's erased in the first line.

"If there's one thing about Norm Coleman, he gets things done," says the ad narrator, a guy dressed in a bowling shirt at a bowling alley.

As the actor lists Coleman's accomplishments ("increased college Pell grants...helping us get energy independent") voices from off-camera repeatedly yell: "And, he brought hockey back."

Coleman, the former mayor of Saint Paul, is widely remembered both in the city and statewide for his aggressive advocacy to bring a National Hockey League team to the city. The Minnesota Wild arrived in the city in 2000 and have been an untempered success in the eight years since then.

Given that hockey is something close to the official sport of Minnesota (Gov. Tim Pawlenty plays regularly), this ad is a savvy play by Coleman. Not only does he remind voters that he is an effective representative for the state but he also does it in a fun way that plays into the state's well established fondness for ice hockey. (A sidenote: When will ice hockey return to Connecticut? The Fix still misses the Hartford Whalers.)

In a political environment like this one, these sorts of transactional appeals may be the only way for a Republican incumbent to win. It may not be enough, but it's all endangered GOPers have at the moment in terms of a positive message.

Watch for lots more Republican incumbents to follow Coleman's lead in the very near future.

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 14, 2008; 5:45 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Next: MN-Senate: The Body is...Out

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