One of the most bizarre political ads brings a collection of creative and interesting responses from California Republicans.
California senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina (R) on Wednesday released a highly unusual attack ad featuring a red-eyed man dressed as a sheep crawling on all fours in a meadow. The spot prompted a wave of jokes on Twitter overnight, as well as some deftly calculated mockery from critics of her campaign, including her opponents.
The point of the ad is to deliver a message about Fiorina's opponent in the Republican primary, Tom Campbell: The economics professor and former congressman is running on a platform of fiscal restraint, but the ad accuses him of just wearing fiscally conservative sheep's clothing. (Skip to 2:25 in the video above if you just want to see the glowing eyes.)
It didn't take long before the ad went viral online. Republican new media strategist Patrick Ruffini, who has suggested that Fiorina wasn't the most electable Republican in the race to unseat Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) and whose communications firm Engage does "web strategy" work for Campbell's campaign, was fast to jump on the ad, tweeting about it Wednesday afternoon, "This afternoon, I briefly experienced the same rush as when I first beheld the Dean Scream. #carlyfornia"
By 6:30 p.m., he had taken action, replacing his Twitter picture with a still from the video and writing, "#DemonSheep avatar now available: http://twitpic.com/118xf6." Meanwhile, "demon sheep" jokes lit up Twitter and one wag created an @demonsheep account there.
Sample tweet, in response to the question of whether he was planning to run for president: "The #demonsheep does not run. It chases." By mid-morning Thursday, the demonsheep had 624 followers, with the list still growing. Demon sheep groups were popping up on Facebook too.
Poll: Is the ad genius or just creepy?
The Campbell campaign used the ad as an opportunity to fundraise Wednesday night. "With America's deficit hitting $1.3 trillion this year, Tom's looking forward to a mature and substantive debate on serious issues, not silly antics," it e-mailed supporters. "Carly's ad likens fiscal conservatives to sheep, and Tom to a demon sheep, without mentioning a single federal issue or proposing a single solution to America's economic woes. Seriously."
Meanwhile, another of Fiorina's primary opponents, Chuck DeVore, a conservative state assembly member, launched the site DemonSheep.org, declaring itself the "Society for the Eradication of Demon Sheep from Our Political Discourse." It posted a video of the candidate along with the pledge, "We also promise to never use Demon Sheep in our political ads."
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee also got into the spirit of goofball push-back, launching an online petition to "Tell Carly Fiorina to Make More Videos!"
"California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina's latest campaign video is a tour de force," the mock petition said. "Whether it's the first appearance of demon sheep eyes at 2:26, or the poor intern crawling across the grass at 2:53, it defies easy description. Sign our petition. Tell Carly Fiorina to make more videos, preferably featuring farm animals."
The Fiorina ad's unofficial moniker isn't the first time "demon sheep" has populated the online imagination. A 2008 "demon sheep" video shows a real sheep in a skull mask chasing a frightened herd.
But it's clearly now the best-viewed version, having drawn more than 103,000 views since release.
By Garance Franke-Ruta Washington Post
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