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Ron Johnson's outsider ad

One of the most surprising developments in the political world over the past three months has been the rise of Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson (R) in his race against Sen. Russ Feingold (D).

Capitalizing on a discontent with Washington and a rising unpopularity with the national Democratic party, Johnson has cast himself as the ultimate outsider -- co-opting the same message that Feingold used to win the seat in 1992.

Johnson's latest ad shows why he has had so much success in such a short period of time -- the latest Real Clear Politics polling average has the challenger leading Feingold by eight points.

Let's break it down.

First -- and most importantly -- Johnson's ad, which was produced by On Message Media, looks different than most political commercials you see.

The ad open with Johnson in front of a white board with a capitol dome drawn on it. He quickly gets to the point, writing out the fact that out of the 100 Senators in Washington 57 (including Feingold) are lawyers while there's only one accountant and no manufacturers. (Johnson is, you guessed it, a manufacturer and an accountant -- a manucountant if you will.)

With less than five weeks before the November elections, people are inundated with all sorts of campaign ads. The first step then is to get them to pay attention -- not fast forward (thank you Tivo!) or simply tune out. Johnson's ad does that.

The engaging visuals are complemented by a very simple message: We need to start sending some different kinds of people to Washington. "I'm not a politician, I'm an accountant and a manufacturer," Johnson says in the ad's closing moments. "I know how to balance a budget and I do know how to create jobs. Now that's something we can really use."

That message is also distinctly non-partisan and somewhat apolitical. At no time in the ad does Johnson mention that he is a Republican and there is nothing on screen that suggests he is at all tied to the political process -- down the fact that he is wearing a button-down shirt with no tie.

The takeaway from the ad is unmistakable: Ron Johnson is different. And being different is a very good thing to be in an election cycle like this one.

By Chris Cillizza  | September 29, 2010; 10:52 AM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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