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2012 campaign

Packard Motor Makes a Comeback (Sort Of)

The Packard motor plant, August 2009

Photograph by Lavoie Photography Interactive

The Packard motor plant, August 2009

When Michigan political-ad makers need a visual depiction of the woeful economy, they don’t have to look far. The old Packard Motors plant in Detroit, shuttered in 1958, perfectly captures the image of industrial decline that, when paired with spooky minor-key music and a grave-sounding narrator, can make for a great attack ad. Given the lousy Michigan economy and the looming elections, it’s been boom times for Packard. As Lydia Beresford of the Campaign Media Analysis Group noticed, candidates and Super PACs in both parties have recently used the Packard plant in their ads.

In this one, the conservative Liberty for All Super PAC—the product of this gawky 21-year-old banking scion—uses Packard to illustrate the job-killing horror that would ensue if a local Democrat raised the business tax by a few percentage points:

And this one, by Rep. John Conyers, the 24-term Michigan Democrat, uses the Packard plant to boast about how Conyers hasn’t abandoned the Detroit auto industry (he might want to rethink his choice of visual imagery):

As this super-cool slide show of the derelict plant makes clear, there are seemingly endless possibilities for attack-ad footage to be found. But alas, this may not be true for much longer. Earlier this year, the property’s owner hired a contractor to demolish the iconic plant.

Green is senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek in Washington. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaGreen.

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