Michael Pfau is UMD Professor that teaches Communication courses that frequently analyze political messages from a rhetorical standpoint. We asked Professor Pfau to make sense of this ad from Jim Oberstar. This is his analysis.
The first 15 seconds of the ad involve basketball coach Paul McDonald introducing the extended analogy and/or metaphor, of “keeping the best player in the game when the game is on the line,” as a warrant “to keep Congressman…Oberstar in Washington D.C..” The use of an unknown basketball coach as the spokesperson may be understood as an attempt to identify Oberstar (portrayed by some critics as an out of touch Washington insider and lifetime politician) with the perspectives and experiences of ordinary Minnesotans, thus buttressing his character and credibility.
Seconds 15 to 24 follow the conventional political wisdom of “good” campaigning in which talk candidates’ policy stands and issues, rather than emotional appeals, ought to characterize political discourse. Along these lines, and consistent with the basketball imagery, Coach McDonald suggests “Jim has got the game it takes to be successful.” Consistent with an aggressive player on the court, Oberstar is said to have “pushed through legislation” that would “keep Minnesota’s iron mines running at full strength, and…keep college affordable for everybody.” This reference to policy achievements may also serve as a subtle fear appeal, suggesting that losing Oberstar might mean losing more jobs on the Iron Range or that college might become less affordable without the efforts of this star player (to use the metaphorical imagery governing the overall ad).
Second 24 to 30 conclude by using the basketball analogy as a means to contextualize and neutralize criticisms that viewers might have heard leveled against Oberstar. In a move the portrays Oberstar’s critics as an out of touch, and perhaps somewhat discourteous, minority, Coach implores “don’t listen to the nay-sayers in the crowd, keep Jim Oberstar in the game.” In sum, the entire ad succeeds or fails based on the analogy or metaphor equating Oberstar and a star basketball player. For viewers that find this comparison and this imagery compelling, this ad may be effective.
For analysis of Chip Cravaack's ad "All Due Respect" follow this link:
For analysis of the ad campaign messages of both sides as a whole follow this link: