02/15/2014 01:40 pm ET | Updated Apr 17, 2014

Then Along Came a Snyder: Super Bowl Scuba-Governor and Four Great Lake Shipwrecks to Explore Before the $30 Million Tidal Wave Hits

The following was originally published on Kevin's blog,

Some disturbing images are tough to shake. Not every Super Bowl ad offers a snorkeling governor rising dramatically from the depths of a swimming pool. Toss in the Phil Hartman-like cheesy narrator and you've got a $400,000 bid for amnesia.

And while Super Bowl ads often have strange, engaging openings, they often aren't know for their literary depth Even the press secretary of former Michigan GOP governor John Engler admitted he was a bit baffled: "Truscott initially was confused by the snorkeling scene too, but upon further reflection, he thought it worked as a metaphor." (link)

Most Super Bowl ads don't require "further reflection." There's not a lot of metaphors either, unless you count cute dogs, groin-injuries and trucks hauling cattle. This strange spot produced by Strategic Perception Inc. of Hollywood oddly blends two famous 1960s Hollywood images that have never before co-existed: The Graduate's Benjamin Braddock and Ursula Andress from the Bond movie, Dr. No.

Pretty heady stuff, using a metaphor of taking the state out from under water, all the while using Bill Clinton's nickname -- The Comeback Kid.

The ad points out that he started by "making long-overdue tough decisions... "


"First on my list, do we need all these empty glasses on our table?"

It's debatable his early mega-tax-cut to fellow CEOs and their companies was truly that difficult. Another handy bit of fact-dancing at the:22 mark involves the following sentence:

"Governor Rick Snyder killed job-killing taxes and Michigan gained 220,000 private-sector jobs."


New jobs for those retirees who have to pay new taxes on their pensions.

The ad doesn't claim that the governor's tax-cut created those jobs, they're just two statements next to one another. I tried the same technique this morning with my family but they weren't impressed: "This morning, Kevin Walsh not only made, but poured himself a cup of coffee and the US won its first gold medal at the Sochi Olympics."

The new jobs probably have much more to do with the bailout of the auto industry and the country's slow climb out of the 2008 recession.

My favorite 1.5 seconds of Snyder's platform reminds me of a Ginsu knife ad with fast-moving titles listing in three words the governor's educational plank. I've merged the hyper factoid (from :40-:42) below:

When you've taken schools to the bottom, where else can you go?

Try this technique at home with your twelve year-old's allowance. "Remember four years ago when I cut your $5 per week down to $2? Then remember how I've added a dime every year since then? So what are you complaining about? I've increased your allowance for the past three years."

The final scene is my favorite -- the Gary Cooper-like slow-motion turn and stroll from-the camera, which begs the question, can you be coming back and walking away at the same time?

Turning one's back is never a great image for a politician to adopt.

But let's skip the terribly cliche "Comeback Kid" and focus on Snyder's more original nickname. It was pretty clever marketing to ride the "One Tough Nerd" ticket all the way to Lansing in 2010. The trick worked to even convince 53 percent of teachers to vote for him and the once-upon-a-time liberal Detroit Free Press even endorsed him. Its editor, Stephen Henderson, regretted believing in the governor's trustworthiness (link):

This newspaper's support of Snyder in 2010 was a philosophical bargain. We knew he would indulge some policies with which we disagreed; we knew that the Republican-led Legislature would push him to extremes...That's all badly tarnished. So badly, in fact, that, at this point, it's difficult for me to see how Snyder can reclaim any semblance of openness. Forget about the instances where a radical Legislature has forced him into uncomfortable positions. If Snyder so willingly trashes ideals he claimed for himself, he simply can't be trusted.

Mr. Henderson points to Snyder's biggest broken-promise, transparency, that cutely spells his nickname, NERD:

Think of all the sneaking around with his New Energy to Reinvest and Diversify fund, which collected millions in anonymous donations before he agreed to shut it down and start a more upfront organization. We still won't find out who gave to NERD, though, and he used much of the money to fund projects that could raise conflicts of interest, if only we knew who'd given the money.

Running an ad in the Super Bowl is famously expensive and there are some deep pockets in the many trousers of the GOP. His campaign is being bankrolled by an expected $30 million in mystery money from the Koch and Amway folks who are counting on Michigan voters to either have amnesia or just be so beaten down that there is little will to fight.

The uninspired and terrifically underfunded 2010 campaign of Lansing mayor Virg Bernero painted the democrats into the traditional role as loser -- similar to Mets or the "Little Brother" label Mike Hart pinned on the pesky Spartans who try to be as good as their idols (and finished #3 this year):

  • "Why can't the Democrats put forth a strong candidate?"
  • "Why does the whole state not care about unions or education anymore?"
  • "When did we join Dixie?"

So, we're left with our front-runner for the democrats -- Mark Schauer, a Battle Creek resident, state and US Representative who also ran a successful non-profit.

Following the Super Bowl ad, the governor took to the road to campaign and decided to pull a tried-and-true nickname of his own from the GOP toolbox, calling Schauer a "career politician."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a career politician as was his cousin Teddy. So was John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and perhaps even Ronald Reagan -- if you get past the brief stint as a bad actor and union president.

It will be interesting to see which label carries more weight, "Career Politician" or "Venture Capitalist," which transformed into "Vulture Capitalist" in 2012 and helped President Obama defeat Mitt Romney two years ago -- too many bodies buried, too many people he enjoyed "firing," too many offshore accounts.

Snyder's seems to be going for the snorkeling "everyman" similar to 2010's "Hire Rick" lawn sign -- implying you could "employ" this millionaire to work for you -- kind of like that guy you paid to clean out the gutters last fall, right?

Four Snyder-Shipwrecks to Remember in the Stormy Seas Ahead...

Here are some key points that the Snyder juggernaut is counting on you forgetting in the deep sea of commercials, mailings and billboards you're about to drown in. The undertow hopes to pull you from the image of the captain of many of the following Titanics...

Shipwreck #1: 180 Degrees on "Right to Work" In a final lame-duck move, the Michigan House and Senate shut the capital doors from the public and quickly passed Right-to-Work legislation, allowing workers to not be in unions (but still receive all the benefits from the union's contracts). Governor Snyder stated throughout the year that he was against the bill, that it was "too divisive," but within a few hours he signed it into law.

The onslaught of new companies moving to Michigan is still coming, a year later. My favorite part of spin-doctoring, which I covered earlier (link), came in December when I received an email announcing that Spartan stores was taking over Minnesota's Nash food chain -- and somehow this Grand Rapids-based company was moving to Michigan.

Shipwreck #2: Ignoring the Voters on Emergency Manager Mandate In 2012, voters rejected the Emergency Managers appointed by the governor who could take over cities and school districts and dissolve negotiated contracts and nullify elected boards. Months later, Snyder signed Public Act 436, which restored the Emergency Manager position.

Shipwreck #3: Pension Tax for Retirees In an interesting bit of reverse "age-ism," the GOP is quick to point out that it's not a tax on seniors, just new retirees. In other words, regardless of any promises made, you shouldn't get off paying taxes because you're retired and planned on a fixed income -- Snyder and company figure you're still young enough to pick up that extra job -- like that welder in the ad.

The governor "loves budgets" but try budgeting on a fixed income that's suddenly been cut.

Shipwreck #4: Money From Your Schools to Business -- One Creepy Marriage There is no greater example of the danger of choosing a Venture Capitalist over a Career Politician than the huge benefits that the governor has given businesses over workers -- $2 billion in tax breaks -- all while this governor who claims his hands are tied on dozens of laws passed against public schools and collective bargaining.

In addition to the dodgy charter-school money-trail, there is the incestuous relationship of school district funds going directly to private companies like the Nexus Academy (link) that is owned by Baltimore's Connection Academy that is owned by England's Pearson Publishing. There is none of Snyder's promised "transparency" or "accountability" -- particularly if your children are two of 400 in the cyber school for unprotected teacher and there's no backup plan or even refund if the "school" neglects to educate them.

Last August, the governor and his wetsuit journeyed outside of his swimming pool and toured Lake Huron shipwrecks (link). But we didn't see the cool picture above in last Sunday's commercial; wreckage isn't the best metaphor for a re-election bid. Better stay in the shallow-end and hope the viewers remember the cute dogs and comeback kids.