Today in Laughable Campaign Ads: Congressional Candidate Portrayed as ‘Corn-Dogging’ Radical

Sarah Cobarrubias

The Repub­li­can Par­ty of South Dako­ta (SDGOP) released a web video this month that was meant to con­trast the “rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent visions” of two South Dako­ta can­di­dates for the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives seat—Democrat Matt Var­ilek and incum­bent Repub­li­can Kristi Noem—but end­ed up anoth­er case of GOP hilarity.
The ad attacks Var­ilek for his high­er edu­ca­tion and inter­na­tion­al trav­els, includ­ing his atten­dance at Uni­ver­si­ty of Glas­gow in Scot­land and Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty for grad­u­ate-lev­el envi­ron­men­tal stud­ies, as well as his work as a teach­ing assis­tant at Bios­phere 2 (a sophis­ti­cat­ed Earth ecol­o­gy lab that the ad says is “known as an incu­ba­tor for rad­i­cal envi­ron­men­tal ideas”) and a green­house gas emis­sions bro­ker for Nat­source.While Varilek’s off doing all these “rad­i­cal” things and sup­pos­ed­ly ignor­ing South Dako­ta, Noem is back home rais­ing her fam­i­ly, tend­ing to the farm, man­ag­ing a fam­i­ly” restau­rant and doing oth­er vague­ly rur­al things.But the high­light of the ad, which runs 2 min­utes and 40 sec­onds, is the attack against a par­ty that Var­ilek host­ed in hon­or of Nation­al Corn­dog Day. The omi­nous voice of the nar­ra­tor tells us that, while Noem was busy win­ning a seat in the state leg­is­la­ture in 2006, Var­ilek was caught up in the fast and loose frat-boy lifestyle:Matt Var­ilek hosts a rau­cous Nation­al Corn­dog Day par­ty in his swanky D.C. neigh­bor­hood, serv­ing more than 1,000 corn dogs, 1,200 beers and a 150-pound ice luge for con­sum­ing shots of Jägermeister.The ad also tells us that, when Var­ilek returned to SD, he was “back “corn dog­ging” again – defend­ing his title as one of the few to achieve a “triple dou­ble” for his beer and corn dog con­sump­tion.”  Huh? Let’s assume that the SDGOP doesn’t know what corn dog­ging is and ignore the ad’s impli­ca­tions that win­ning a corn­dog eat­ing con­test makes one less qual­i­fied to serve in Con­gress. Through­out, the video also empha­sizes Varilek’s advo­ca­cy for cap-and-trade “schemes”—he pro­mot­ed glob­al cap-and-trade plans at UN sum­mits in 2001 and 2003—plans that would reduce green­house gas pol­lu­tion by impos­ing lim­its on how much car­bon a com­pa­ny can emit. Of course, cap-and-trade is a four-let­ter word for the GOP (even though such mea­sures were ini­tial­ly intro­duced and pro­mot­ed by Repub­li­can lead­ers), so the video makes sure to frame Varilek’s efforts to cut pol­lu­tion and pro­tect the ozone lay­er as shady and un-Amer­i­can.In the end, the ad leaves us ask­ing: Is this satire? It seems more like an SNL short than a seri­ous cam­paign for Con­gress. Rather than paint a world in which Var­ilek is a dan­ger­ous rad­i­cal and Noem is a moral and upstand­ing South Dakotan, it unwit­ting­ly por­trays Var­ilek as edu­cat­ed and moti­vat­ed and Noem as a bump­kin who nev­er left her home state.
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