Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

The Boxer blimp, the Demon Sheep and Fred Davis

At this weekend's Republican convention in California, former Hewlett Packard Executive Carly Fiorina unveiled a nearly eight-minute video portraying Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) as a blimp.

Yup, you read that right. A blimp.

The video is the latest offering from California-based media consultant Fred Davis -- a man who, by his own admission, marches to the beat of a different drummer.

"The initial impact is 'Fred's insane'," said Davis of his web videos in an interview with the Fix earlier today. "But, it sticks around."

Davis knows of what he speaks. Back in 1998, he and his firm -- Strategic Perception -- posted a web video portraying then Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes (D) as a giant rat, marauding across the Peach State.

People laughed (who wouldn't?) but the image of an imperious Barnes stuck and little known state Sen. Sonny Perdue (Davis' client) catapulted to the most shocking upset of the 1998 2002 election.

So influential was the "King Roy" web video that more than a decade later it lingers in the Georgia political scene. With Barnes running for governor again in 2010, state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, who is seeking the Republican gubernatorial nod, posted a video entitled "The Ox vs King Roy the Rat".

(One of the great "missing links" on You Tube is that there is no copy of the "King Roy" video. Or at least none that we could find.)

The lesson Davis took from the "King Roy" success was "you have to get attention first," he said, adding: "If you don't get [voters'] attention why the hell are you spending a dime?"

While Davis has had his fair share of hits with this oddball approach -- "King Roy", the "Hair" ads in the Illinois governor's race -- he's also swung and missed too.

In 2008, Davis produced a web video for Texas Sen. John Cornyn, which ran only at the state party convention, that portrayed the Republican incumbent as a rough and tough cowboy named "Big, bad John" -- and also featured a sort of spoken-word, rhyming sound track. (If you haven't ever seen it, watch it. Immediately.)

The video, which Davis said he never thought would be seen by anyone outside of the convention hall, went viral -- and not in a good way for Cornyn. While the web video didn't help Cornyn, there's little evidence it hurt him in a meaningful way either as he was re-elected by 12 points in November 2008.

(Davis also does plenty of more traditional ads. He was the lead ad guy for Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential race, worked on President George W. Bush's 2004 re-election bid and handles media for a passel of U.S. Senators and governors.)

Davis, unbowed by the Cornyn controversy, went even bigger (and stranger) with a web ad for Fiorina earlier this year picturing former Rep. Tom Campbell, one of Fiorina's Senate primary opponents, as a wolf's in sheep clothing -- literally. And, as an added bonus, the sheep's eyes turned a demonic red in the video.

The "Demon Sheep" video became instantly famous/infamous online with more than 720,000 views on You Tube as of press time.

While Davis insisted that the press regarding "Demon Sheep" wasn't entirely negative, he acknowledged that the "demon sheep got demonized to such an extent" that the campaign decided to skip a planned video that would have served as "intermediary step" between it and the Boxer blimp video.

Davis argued that the Boxer blimp video was a long calculated move -- he said he presented it to the campaign last October -- aimed at "encapsulating in one place exactly how we want the race to be perceived."

The method behind Davis' (perceived) madness? That television ads in California are stunningly expensive -- $4-5 million a week -- and, short of spending those sorts of sums, the best way to get voters' attention is via these admittedly odd videos.

"People see them," said Davis. "That's what it boils down to."

By Chris Cillizza  |  March 15, 2010; 3:12 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Raising Arizona: Gabrielle Giffords and the race for the 8th district
Next: "Saturday Night Live" takes on Eric Massa


California is broke for several reasons, all of them political, but these are the main ones:

(1) The incumbent legislators have for years done dirty deals, redistricting so that all (favored) incumbents, Rep or Dem, would have "safe seats"... which means a Dem running in a Dem-safe district needs only to pander to his/her own base (same with Reps), and we get a legislature of party radicals on both sides that won't work together on anything.

(2) Public employee unions (especially the prison guards and educator unions) have a stranglehold on Sacramento that keeps the government from cuts, or even reasonable economies, in the area of California's largest expenditures.

(3) Schwarzeneggar (a moderate Republican) was elected, but then when he had to do battle with the unions and their entrenched legislator patrons, when the Governor warned us that, if cuts were not made then, we'd soon be right where we are now, California voters (and legislators of both parties) failed to support him, and he was forced to back down.

And here we are.

Posted by: Iconoblaster | March 16, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively


How hard is that ????


Posted by: 37thand0street | March 16, 2010 2:07 AM | Report abuse

The House Budget Committee posted the bill - it is 2300 pages long !!!!

What are they - insane ???

That makes the health care bill a total of 5000 pages.

NOW - they say, they will gut out the 2300 pages - but who are they trying to kid.

With 5000 pages - who is even pretending there is transparency - the Constitution is 11 pages long - why do we need thousands of pages if they aren't trying to hide things and slip things in ?


Posted by: 37thand0street | March 16, 2010 1:43 AM | Report abuse


Why should you be telling the Washington Post what to print ??


I think the Obama people got so used to the press fawning over them, that they forgot what the press is supposed to be like: critical.

Obama is the worse President since Hoover, and perhaps Buchanan - definitely worse than Jimmy Carter.

There is an economic crisis going on - which Obama is ignoring - in favor of some ego trip - it really is the sickest thing ever - the sickest thing a President has ever done in American history.

All the democrats who voted for Obama - it's your fault - take some personal responsibility and say clearly that is was really stupid to vote for someone with such little experience - and who had such little track-record that no one knew he was going to swing all the way to the left.


You were lucky to be born in America - and look how you have treated the country in return.



Posted by: 37thand0street | March 16, 2010 1:09 AM | Report abuse

Like anyone cares about being called childish by a guy with a charred brain

Posted by: Noacoler | March 15, 2010 9:38 PM | Report abuse


You are a complete joke if you think that the Washington Post should act like a cheerleader for Obama - you are acting like a little child actually.

None of the reasons you give mean anything.

What is wrong with you ???


Posted by: 37thand0street | March 15, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Another goober sh*thead praying for calamity

Posted by: Noacoler | March 15, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse

California's troubles will eventually slide away. The sooner the earth shifts causing the state to disappear perhaps the better for the rest of the country. Not too far from being a reality. One will not have to worry what side of the fence they are on then.

Posted by: hsspanick | March 15, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

California is broke because of minority veto on tax increases, you lying sack.

Posted by: Noacoler | March 15, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

California is broke because of minority veto on tax increases, you lying sack.

Posted by: Noacoler | March 15, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

California is broke thanks to the liberals over spending for years. Any day now I expect California to ask other states or the Federal government to bale them out. Boxer is one of the biggests libs around.

Posted by: farmsnorton | March 15, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Fiorina championing the outsourcing of jobs, expanding the H1-B program (working SO WELL for Microsoft), and HP stock dropping 60% under her "leadership."

Running for office with a record like that? And she doesn't even wear a tie to cut off her oxygen. The CEO caste. Hope some unemployed Californian maims her.

Posted by: Noacoler | March 15, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse


No, but one positive reference to BHO in this space in the last two years is a bit odd given the blog is sponsored by the Washington Post, which serves a multicultural community that voted for our 44th President in 2008 about 10 to 1 and has, until the last few years, been at the vanguard of the civil rights movement (see Washington Post, the Graham Years).

By contrast, the blog has found time to give shoutouts/free pub to the likes of Chip Salsman, Charlie Cook, Ricky Rubio, Mrs. Todd Palin, and "Tenther" Tim Pawlenty. Go figure.

Why no mention of BHO's excellent health care reform speech today covered by the entire MSM, of which the Post is still a part? What city is the blog covering? Sacramento?

Posted by: broadwayjoe | March 15, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Carleton S. "Carly" Fiorina, see corporate mismanagement, page 456:

"In 2008, Infoworld grouped her with a list of products and ideas as flops, declaring her to be the "anti-Steve Jobs" for reversing the goodwill of American engineers and for alienating existing customers. ... In April 2009, the business magazine web site Condé Nast Portfolio listed Fiorina as one of "The 20 Worst American CEOs of All Time", characterizing the HP-Compaq merger as a widely regarded failure, and citing the halving of HP's stock value under Fiorina's tenure."

Agreed, d. A little background helps...

Posted by: broadwayjoe | March 15, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse


Why does the Washington Post HAVE to make a positive reference to Obama??

You make it seem like such a positive reference is an obligation of the newspaper.

Is there anyway you can get rid of this bad attitude ????


Posted by: 37thand0street | March 15, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Four checks:

Free placement of GOPer Carly Fiorina campaign ad. (With the $20 million buyout she got from Hewlett Packard in 2005 after almost destroying it, can't she afford to pay for a Post ad? Just askin'.) Check.

Free pub in the Post for a media consultant named Fred Davis who nobody knows or cares about. Check.

Free link to a placement of a two-year-old John Cornyn ad. (What the ____?) Check.

No positive mention of the 44th President of the United States. Check.

d, thanks for the latest hate blast from Michelle Maglagang, taking self-hate to sociopathic heights.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | March 15, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Fred was running out of offensive animals, so he had to turn to a blimp, which is extremely offensive to women.

Barbara Boxer is nowhere near a blimp.

Fred is a complete idiot.


Posted by: 37thand0street | March 15, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

BTW the video referenced in the article may not have hurt (Big Bad John)Cornyn, but this typical RepubliKKKan demonstrated his 'true colors' by removing HIS PARTY AFFILIATION from his campaign adverts! What a macho man! (And desperate RepubliKKKans are considering this guy for 2012...naturally!)

Posted by: bgreen2224 | March 15, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Mark, in Cali, Gov and Lt Gov are separate offices. Lt. Gov office is vacant as the last one, a D, Garmendi or something like that left for the Congress. I just think as the Brown Newsom pair running at the same time has a lot of curb appeal, the old wise and the new fresh, etc. I'll bet California is sick of self aggrandizing Republican neophytes just now.

Funny Kitzhaber in Oregon is going to get his old job back too, though he wasn't gone so long as Brown.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 15, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Considered to be "one of the Worst CEOs of All Time", Fiorina was canned by the Hewlett Packard Board in 2005. During her tenure, HP's stock price dropped in half. It's very likely she will enjoy the same remarkable success as a RepubliKKKan candidate. You go girl!

Posted by: bgreen2224 | March 15, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

I've got a copy of the Roy Barnes/King Rat video somewhere on this desk. But it's a videotape. Never did make the transition to DVD, which is probably why you can't find it on the Internet. As I recall, Perdue had extremely limited funds, and the campaign couldn't afford a giant rat roaming the countryside. It only attacked the state Capitol, bedecked with a crown and some serious rapper-style bling.

Posted by: jgalloway | March 15, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

From a woman immigrant who hate both women and immigrants, Michelle Malkin queen b*tch of the right and big thorn in Carly's side:

McCain-backed GOP Senate candidate Carly Fiorina hearts Jesse Jackson — and radical gender politics
By Michelle Malkin • January 23, 2010 09:52 AM

As if California GOP Senate candidate Carly Fiorina’s massive bailout-supporting economic advice for John McCain wasn’t bad enough (reminder from yesterday’s column: “In California, McCain’s PAC supports former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina – a celebrity name with deep pockets of her own, massive media exposure, and a checkered business record. Fiorina served as the economic adviser to McCain, who supported the $700 billion TARP bailout, the $25 billion auto bailout, a $300 billion mortgage bailout, and the first $85 billion AIG bailout.”), now comes the revelation of that she has had a long political love affair with Jesse Jackson.

It’s on tape, via Neil Stevens of RedState: “When Carly Fiorina speaks on the campaign trail here in California, running to be the Republican nominee to unseat Barbara Boxer, she tries to prohibit recording of her speeches. However somebody snuck in an audio recorder to an event yesterday, and these clips seem to show why she would do that. The real, private Carly seems to be a bit different from the public, ‘conservative’ Carly.”

Listen for yourselves as she coos about “the Reverend Jesse Jackson” and panders to gender quota-mongers at a women’s conference held last week:"

make no mistake about it -- the R base hates Fiorina.

Posted by: drindl | March 15, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

mark_in_austin writes
"according to NPR this morning the R race is very heated and she has done her share of the nasty toward Campbell."

I heard that story too. Which is why I'm saying she's focusing on the wrong target & has to solve that little problem with perception about her HP tenure first.


Posted by: bsimon1 | March 15, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Exile_in_Philly, are you a devotee of the late W.C. Fields?

Bsimon, Fiorina could conceivably project front runner status by only attacking Sen. Boxer, but according to NPR this morning the R race is very heated and she has done her share of the nasty toward Campbell.

CA people, is this your take?

Shrink, are Brown and Newsom running as a ticket?

Posted by: mark_in_austin | March 15, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

good post, bently. Davis is yet anothr of those toxic propagandists in the mold of Lee Atwater, who have done so much to sully and poison political discourse.

Posted by: drindl | March 15, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I had the opportunity to work with Fred in what I think was his first political campaign in 1994 for then-US Rep. Jim Inhofe's campaign for the open left by Sen. David Boren. Davis won awards for his famous ad on crime, featuring grizzled inmates dancing in too-too's with references to 'midnight basketball,' etc. Inhofe won, and ironically, has a cameo in this Boxer ad. He is a remarkably creative media professional whom I would hire in a minute if I were insane enough to run for public office.

Posted by: Exile_in_Philly | March 15, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

I had the opportunity to work with Fred in what I think was his first political campaign in 1994 for then-US Rep. Jim Inhofe's campaign for the open left by Sen. David Boren. Davis won awards for his famous ad on crime, featuring grizzled inmates dancing in too-too's with references to 'midnight basketball,' etc. Inhofe won, and ironically, has a cameo in this Boxer ad. He is a remarkably creative media profession whom I would hire in a minute if I were insane enough to run for public office.

Posted by: Exile_in_Philly | March 15, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Fred Davis and his ilk represent everything that is wrong with American politics, the members of the Fourth Estate like Chris Cilliza who give this crap more exposure than it deserves (which would be none). Carly Fiorina should also be ashamed of herself - she claims that she has the ability to "bring people together." Well, she can prove it by disowning this sort of poison and actually demonstrating that she can bridge political and ideological divides in some sort of meaningful fashion.

Posted by: jbentley4 | March 15, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Something the fix doesn't mention -- Carly's Olympic caliber, 180-degree flipflop:

"However, less than two years ago, Fiorina was singing a different tune. Speaking at the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, MN, she praised Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) cap-and-trade plan as something that would “both create jobs and lower the cost of energy”:

I know John McCain. And in 2013, America will be more energy-independent because of his determination that we must power our own country, and his long-standing commitment to protecting our environment. John McCain will create a cap-and-trade system that will encourage the development of alternative energy sources. He will help advance clean coal technology, and nuclear power. And all of this will both create jobs and lower the cost of energy.

Like McCain’s plan, Boxer’s climate legislation marries a market-based cap on carbon pollution with support for alternative energy sources, including nuclear power and advanced coal technology. The revenues generated from a cap on carbon pollution will protect electricity consumers from the cost of investing in new jobs and ending dependence on oil, as Boxer has explained last year:

We must get these greenhouse gas emissions out of the air because if the planet continues to warm, we’re in a whole lot of trouble. Pretty much everyone agrees on that. Now, that means we have to move to clean energy and away from imported oil and those Middle East dictators. That’s good. We’ll move to clean energy. It will be better for our health and our families. That’s good. What about this transition period, as we move away from the dirty fuels and dirty coal to clean coal, to clean fuels, to solar, wind and geothermal? That’s where you’ll have a little bit of an increase in electricity prices.

, with a cap-and-trade system, you will have an incoming stream of revenues just as you do from the acid rain program, an incoming stream of revenues. And those revenues will make consumers whole. They will never pay any more. And that’s just the facts."

Posted by: drindl | March 15, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Hate to be "that guy", but Barnes lost in the biggest upset of 2002, not 1998.

Just sayin' :)

Posted by: Haners | March 15, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for publicizing the blimp. Barbara Boxer is the worst senator in US history. I hope my fellow Californians make her the Hindenburg this fall.

Posted by: kenpasadena | March 15, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like Fiorina's running the wrong ad at the wrong time. When she was the candidate-apparent, designing a funny ad targetting Boxer for the convention made sense. However, she's squandered her lead & Boxer is not yet the opponent about whom Fiorina should be worried. She has to counter the meme that she ran HP into the ground (facts notwithstanding). Unless she breaks the chain to that millstone, she won't be swimming in the general election.

Posted by: bsimon1 | March 15, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Fiorina and Whitman are both hilariously club-footed campaigners.

Fred Davis needs a loooong recovery.

His ads look like they were aimed at young, backward children on LSD.

Posted by: drindl | March 15, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

For some reason, I think Gavin Newsom is really going to help Jerry Brown. Its a paradox, running separately, the pair will be unbeatable.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 15, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Fiorina needs to worry about the fact that nobody likes her before she worries about Boxer. This type of ad won't ever make it to the general because Fiorina won't be there to run it.
Also I think obviously attacking your opponent like this will have serious blow back on her campaign. It may go over well with the blood-red crazies that watch Glen Beck, but for the middle of the road independent (who are essential in CA) this will just seem wierd. Plus it will energize the liberals who for the time being have been sitting on the sidelines. All in all this will be looked back on as one of the worst run campaigns in CA history (although Meg Whitman is running a close second).

Posted by: AndyR3 | March 15, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company