If the last week has proven anything, it is that Chris Christie should probably stay off of the old YouTube.
As Laura Clawson told us earlier in the week, New Jersey Republican gubernatorial nominee is up to some pretty interesting tricks in the Garden State.
Check out these web ads from his campaign. The first ad is broadcast in English, while the second ad is broadcast in Spanish:
On this ad, here is the first sentence:
Why is Chris Christie, a Republican, in Plainfield, New Jersey? Chris is no ordinarily Republican....
The Spanish-language incarnation of the ad presents an interesting contrast.
The first sentence on this one, with my rough translation (native speakers please correct in the comments, if necessary):
"Why is Chris Christie in Plainfield, New Jersey? He is in Plainfield, because he is talking to the community..."
You do not need to be a supersleuth to notice the difference.
The Spanish-language version of the web ad clearly omits the pair of references to Christie's party affiliation.
Not that you would know it if you were a Spanish-speaking resident of New Jersey, but Chris Christie is, indeed, a Republican.
Both the insistence on the labeling of the party ID in the English-language ad, and the intentional omission of said party ID in the Spanish-language ad, are quite telling.
It is actually fairly unusual for party identification to make its way into campaign advertising. A cursory glance of a video compendium of campaign ads from 1996 produced by Campaigns and Elections Magazine shows that only two candidates declared their party ID in advertising, and one of those two was clearly an ad for a primary campaign.
If anything, campaign ads usually work hard to suppress any mention of political parties (and, quite often, are incredibly malleable on the simpler matter of party ideology). On the surface, this makes sense. A campaign can presume that their base will stay home, and that the margin of victory will be won by persuading nonpartisans and those on the other side to support you. It is one of the oldest maxims in American elections: run to the base in the primary, run to the middle in the general. "Running to the middle", by definition, would seem to preclude trumpeting one's party ID.
So why did Christie so self-consciously mention it (two times in the first fifteen words!) in his English-language ad?
It is, quite clearly, an attempt at counter-programming that was sorely lacking in subtlety. The opening of this ad just screams out "Look, urban America! A Republican that doesn't want to ignore you! Love us! Please love us!"
So, if Christie's goal was to sell a narrative of an atypical Republican with a heart for the inner city (some kind of latter-day Jack Kemp), why didn't he do so in the Spanish language variation of the advertisement as well?
Well, that might have had something to do with this:
Favorability Ratings for Republican Party (Among Latino Voters)
Not Sure 8
Not only are these numbers exceptionally brutal, they have gotten considerably worse over the course of this year: in January, the favorability ratio, while not strong, was considerably better, standing at 22/68.
The ceaseless GOP bashing of Sonia Sotomayor seems to have had the effect of erasing what meager support the GOP had with Hispanic voters. Indeed, a net negative 80 favorability is nearly universal disapproval. It also goes a long way towards explaining Christie's decision to omit any reference to his status as a Republican in his Spanish-language advertising.
Both his inclusion of that information in the English ad, and his exclusion of that information in the Spanish ad, speaks volumes about the current status of the Republican Party--a party almost universally viewed as indifferent to Urban America, and a party, at present, viewed with contempt in the Hispanic community.