UMD professor analyzes Cravaack campaign ad

Michael Pfau is a UMD Professor that teaches Communications courses that frequently analyze political messages from a rhetorical standpoint.  We asked Professor Pfau to make sense of this ad from Chip Cravaack.  This is his analysis.

In the first 8 seconds of the ad, Cravaack establishes his character and credibility by presenting his status as a “26 year veteran,” establishing an implicit contrast between himself and Oberstar who his critics characterize as a lifetime politician.  Cravaack’s insistence that he will conduct his campaign against Oberstar “with all due respect,” is also an attempt to build his character and credibility, this time setting up an implicit contrast between himself and some of his less-than-civil Tea Party supporters whose boisterous antics may be viewed with skepticism by many of the independents, moderates and undecided voters that Cravaack needs to sway. Seconds 9-18 are the portion of the ad where Cravaack makes appeals to reason, operating according to the conventional rules of “good” campaigning in which candidates’ policy stands and issues, rather than personal attacks and emotional appeals, ought to characterize political discourse. Along these lines Cravaack admits that despite his feelings of respect, “yet I disagree with his record.”  But even as Cravaack, apparently uses rational appeals centered on issues, he also uses loaded language with powerful and emotional connotations to some audiences. Rather than use the more neutral language indicating Oberstars voted for the health care bill, Cravaack invokes right wing paranoia about Communism and Socialism in saying that “he nationalized our health care.”  Had Congress passed a single payer universal health care system, the language of nationalization may be accurate, but given that the health care bill merely regulates an otherwise private market of health care providers and insurance companies, this claim is factually problematic, even as it taps into irrational far right fears of Stalinist Communism and Socialism.  Cravaack’s words on the next issue, “he voted to raise our energy taxes,” are accurate, but the text playing in front of him uses the more ominous and subjective language of “crushing” taxes – tapping into fears of continued recession and economic downturn.   And while Cravaack’s next words, indicating that Oberstar “spent billions and ran up the debt,” are accurate, the text flashing in front of Cravaack uses the anger-inducing language of “wasteful pork.” From second 19 to 30 Cravaack returns to the contrast between his biography and Oberstar’s, “Oberstar has been in Washington for more than 50 years", and identifies himself with “us” in contrast to Oberstar: “but he’s voting against us.” In the end Oberstar appears as a villainous career politician working to impose a ruinous Communist agenda against the people of Minnesota.

For analysis of Jim Oberstar's ad "Coach" follow this link:


For analysis of both party's campaign ad strategies follow this link:

Professor Gore's ad analysis

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