Jeb Bush’s Right to Rise super-pac really wants you to think of Senator Marco Rubio as an unprincipled flip-flopper. So it’s unleashed two ads in the early states, one using a new image: Rubio’s much-discussed boots, dancing around on various issues to the tune of the old Nancy Sinatra “These Boots Are Made for Walking” (turned into “Boots Are Made for Flippin’”) tune.
But another uses a very old image: Rubio as a weather vane, shifting with the winds on two immigration-related bills.
This is a direct (if perhaps unconscious) copy of an ad attacking Richard Nixon released by the Hubert Humphrey campaign back in 1968. The image has faded with time, but you have to admit, the rendering of the Tricky One as a weather vane is ingenious.
Four years later, Team Nixon (actually Democrats for Nixon, the group led by John Connally that crafted some of the most effective attack ads of the 1972 campaign) returned the favor with a similar ad showing George McGovern’s head spinning on an axle as he allegedly changes positions on various issues.
Broader applications of the idea of the opponent shifting positions with the wind come along now and then. A really famous one was in 2004, when George W. Bush’s campaign ran an ad exploiting John Kerry’s windsurfing hobby.
This was actually kind of a twofer, because the Bush people calculated that windsurfing would be perceived as the effete pastime of coastal elites, as opposed to such wholesome red-state hobbies as gun-cleaning or drinking beer while shouting at a football game on television.
Given that history, the attack on Rubio is pretty vanilla. But perhaps in the devilish digital labs of Right to Rise, operatives are working to depict Jeb’s enemies as kites or balloons or balled-up pieces of paper.