Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Man Behind the Ron Paul Ads

By Jason Horowitz

Back in July, Republican ad man Jon Downs met with fellow veterans of George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign at a local IHOP for their quarterly professional catch-up.

“He said, ‘Unbeknownst to you guys, I’ve been working and I’ve signed with Ron Paul,’ ” Scott Douglas, a Republican political operative and Downs’s first boss in politics, recalled. “And my mouth dropped.” Douglas said others in the breakfast crew “twitched and laughed” and “rolled their eyes.”

Not anymore. Paul has inched in from the margins to position himself for an unexpectedly strong showing in the Iowa caucuses. His radical economic views are getting a fresh hearing in awful economic times, and his highly organized and well-funded ground game has attracted support beyond his base of young, committed Paul zealots.

But as much as Paul likes to claim that the mainstream has come to him, he has also pursued it. Exhibit A : Downs, a media mercenary who is about as far as it gets from a traditional Paul revolutionary.

“I wouldn’t consider myself a member of his army,” said Downs, a self-described mainstream Republican, as he reclined on a recent evening in his downtown D.C. studio.

But Downs is engineering the campaign’s broadsides.

On Monday, the Paul campaign unveiled a Downs ad eviscerating Newt Gingrich as a Washington insider. An earlier, equally brutal ad out of Downs’s shop prompted a question during Saturday night’s GOP debate. Other Downs productions have included a frenetic, in-your-face spot called “Big Dog,” modeled on Ford’s F-150 truck ads, in which Paul is depicted as having the bite to back up his bark while his opponents are “whimpering like little Shih Tzus.” It received a sendup from Conan O’Brien.

“Driving eyeballs to our stuff maybe takes a little more work or creativity than if you are Barack Obama or Mitt Romney,” explained the 34-year-old Downs, characteristically rumpled-looking in jeans, a blue sweater and Mephisto shoes. Voters appear to be watching. An American Research Group poll released on Monday showed Gingrich’s lead down five points to 22 percent among Iowa caucus-goers, while Paul and Mitt Romney both climbed to 17 percent.

While Paul benefits from Downs’s experience appealing to mainstream Republican electorates, Downs gets the prestige and payday of playing a critical role on a presidential campaign that, even if unsuccessful, amounts to a high-profile audition for the ultimate nominee.

Working for Paul is “a great opportunity for me,” Downs acknowledged before pivoting to talk about his admiration of Paul.

Read the rest here.

No comments:

Post a Comment