The Republican National Committee isn’t afraid to think outside the box, and as a rule, that’s a good thing. The party officials want to do something cool and different, they’re willing to take chances, and it’s hard to blame the RNC for trying.
It’s becoming apparent, though, that the party may not be especially good at it.
In March, for example, the RNC rolled out some ads, which reportedly aired in 14 states, intended to appeal to millennials. The spots featured a young man awkwardly reading cue cards, pushing an odd message about energy policy. They inspired quite a few parodies, but the Republicans’ ads probably didn’t sway many voters.
Now the RNC has a new creative punch in mind: giant squirrels.
As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criss-crosses the country to promote her new memoir “Hard Choices,” the RNC is deploying a person in a massive, orange squirrel costume to attend the events and deliver the message that “another Clinton in the White House is nuts.”The so-called “HRC squirrel” even has its own Twitter handle and donation page filled with groan-inducing puns like Clinton is “trying to hide her record on #Benghazi the way I hide acorns” and “Don’t squirrel around, vote Republican.”
It’s not just in public – the “HRC squirrel” is the star of a YouTube video, too.
In an unintentionally hilarious twist, Patrick Caldwell discovered that the Republican National Committee apparently used this exact same orange squirrel costume in 2008 while trying to promote conspiracy theories about ACORN.
Which brings us to the larger problem here.
Longtime campaign watchers may recall that party activists in giant costumes have had some success in generating attention for a cause. In 1992, when then-President George H.W. Bush was reluctant to debate then-Gov. Bill Clinton, Democrats sent “Chicken George” to Republican campaign events. Four years later, “Butt Man” – Democrats in “seven-foot, foam-rubber cigarette costumes” – mocked Bob Dole’s reliance on campaign funds from the tobacco industry.
In both instances, the costumes at least made some sense to everyone who saw them. Clinton was accusing Bush of being chicken, so there was someone in a chicken costume. Clinton attacked Dole for being a little too cozy with Big Tobacco, so there was someone in a cigarette costume. There was no explanation necessary.
When people see a giant squirrel, recently used for an entirely different political attack, showing up at Hillary Clinton book events, what exactly is the message voters are supposed to receive? That the former Secretary of State is squirrely? That she won’t leave my birdfeeders alone?
Apparently, for those who get close enough, the giant squirrel has a t-shirt that says it’s “nuts” to elect another Clinton to the White House. But (a) Clinton is not yet a candidate for public office; and (b) most Americans look back at Bill Clinton’s presidency with great fondness. Indeed, just yesterday, the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found Clinton is easily the most admired president of the last quarter century.
Maybe the RNC has a backup plan?