Does This Dress Make Me Look Republican?

Cookie-cutter ads are a bad idea.
Florida Governor Rick Scott hopes voters will reject the Charlie Crist number.

Democrats are guffawing about new ads from the College Republican National Committee that compare gubernatorial candidates to wedding dresses. The spots show hip young women who say they prefer the "Rick Scott" model to the "Charlie Crist," which is "expensive and a little outdated." I'm not sure the target audience of young women who might be open to voting Republican will be swayed by these way-hip (or not) presentations, but what do I know?

Actually, I do know one thing: Making cookie-cutter ads is just asking for trouble.

See, not only does Brittney the "undecided voter" "think that "The Rick Scott is perfect," she feels the same way about "The Rick Snyder," "The Tom Corbett" and three other dresses. The ads are identical, only the candidate names change (never mind that Brittney can't vote in six states in November).

But whatever their quality and however mockery-worthy they are, the ads are open invitations for Democratic opponents to hammer the dreaded Outside Interests Who Don't Care About [insert name of state here]'s Values. It's a classic example of the way elections are conducted in the U.S.: Candidates' campaign organizations are seemingly in charge, but decentralized party and quasi-party organizations step in and help -- or embarrass -- them.

Most campaign professionals learned the lesson 30 years ago. Cookie-cutter ads were used and perceived to succeed for Republicans in the 1980 cycle, Democrats fought back by ridiculing them in 1982. Today's College Republicans probably weren't born yet.

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