We laughed and we sneered. But after the giggles resided, the Fourth Estate took a deeper look into the unexpected gem that was Herman Cain's latest campaign ad for the presidency. The cheesy house-music and effortless cigarette drag by Cain's chief of staff Mark Block had to mean something, right? Officially, Block told CBS News reporter Carline Horn that the decision to include the cigarette was about authenticity, or something. "Only comment is — I smoke. Its a choice. It's Block being Block." But it can't be just that! Here are the competing theories:
It's really about selling cigarettes He's got the lobbying ties to back it up, as The Buffalo Beast's Ian Murphy points out. "Guys like Block & Cain — people with tobacco industry connections — don’t just make a campaign video that features a guys smoking without considering those connections. It’s not a flippant decision." He notes that Block was formerly the director of Wisconsin's Americans for Prosperity chapter, which has been underwritten by the tobacco industry in the past. Additionally, Cain personally lobbied for the tobacco industry to fight against bans on indoor smoking, The New York Times reported Saturday.
It's about sending an anti-nanny state message The Atlantic's Garance Franke-Ruta sees the ad as a potential winner for the primary electorate. "Making a bold statement against anti-smoking regulations would seem general election suicide but also the sort of thing that might help Cain in Tea Party circles, where voters frequently complain about what they see as intrusive government regulations that prevent them from living the lifestyles they want to."
It's about catering to the Mark Blocks of the world New York magazine's Dan Amira theorizes that it's a direct reach out to Block-type voters. "He's white, he has a mustache, he has a Midwestern accent, and yes, he smokes cigarettes. In short, he looks and sounds like someone from the SNL Da Bears sketches. And he believes in Herman Cain. Come on in, working class Republicans — the water's fine!"
It's a simple ploy to make the video go viral Alana Goodman at Commentary says "reporters are thinking too hard." It's not about cigarettes it's a viral marketing strategy. "The video is brilliant in that it’s tricked a whole lot of people to sit through 40 seconds of happy platitudes about Herman Cain before getting to the scandalous part … It’s a simple gimmick to get attention for the video while trying to send this message about Cain: he’s a 'maverick' who doesn’t follow the typical rules of politics."
It's about defiance Salon's Steve Kornacki thinks this could hearken back to sour grapes dating back a decade ago. "The intent of the smoking shot is unclear, but it could represent Cain’s defiant response to recent media scrutiny of his three-year run in the late 1990s as the head of the National Restaurant Association, during which time he aligned the lobbying group with the tobacco industry."
It's really about Cain just not being serious Maybe there's no need to look so deeply into the ad. Besides complaints that Cain's smile at the end of the ad is "weird and creepy," the ad reaffirms Cain's seriousness problem. His jokes and his oblique responses to questions suggest he's not ready for the presidency. Perhaps the unexpected cigarette is just another slip up on this highly entertaining campaign for the presidency.