Re-electing Governor Andrew Cuomo is a vote for nuclear war, criminality, and general disaster. That’s roughly the message, anyway, behind Republican challenger Rob Astorino’s newest ad, titled “Jail,” a shot-for-shot remake of the infamous “Daisy” ad that Lyndon B. Johnson ran against challenger Barry Goldwater in 1964.
“Jail” is merely the latest in a series of deeply ridiculous ads that the governor and Astorino have lobbed at one another leading up to the election on November 4. But Astorino has really stepped things up with this one, rhetoric-wise: The 30-second spot features a black-and-white image of a little girl innocently tearing the petals off a flower in a field, as an ominous voiceover of a man counting down from 10 plays in the background. The little girl looks up, frozen in horror, and the image cuts to a mushroom cloud exploding.
“These are the stakes,” the announcer intones, as the mushroom cloud fades into a photo of Cuomo. “Do we re-elect a governor who may end up in jail?”
Here’s the full ad:
And here’s the original 1964 “Daisy” ad:
“Daisy” was, as you might expect, incredibly controversial; it ran just once during the 1964 election (the same campaign where LBJ’s camp also ran a spot accusing Goldwater of having backing from the KKK).
Astorino’s ad references, obviously, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s ongoing investigation into Cuomo and his administration for their role in shutting down the Moreland Commission, the anti-corruption panel the governor convened and then abruptly scrapped. Astorino told the New York Post that remaking the “Daisy” ad was the best way to call attention to the Moreland mess.
“Every New Yorker needs to know about the federal corruption investigation into Andrew Cuomo that may land him in prison,” he told the tabloid. “No ad in American history captured the attention of the nation more than ‘Daisy,’ and we believe this 50th-anniversary version, ‘Jail,’ will similarly call attention to Andrew Cuomo’s corruption scandal here in New York. This governor swindled New Yorkers into believing he was a reformer, then arguably turned out to be the most corrupt state governor in modern times.”
It’s probably not actually all that urgent to call any more attention to the Moreland scandal, one of the most discussed political events in New York this year. But an ad about nuclear war will draw plenty of attention to Rob Astorino, which he sorely needs. He’s lagging in both the polls, the latest of which still show Cuomo with a healthy lead almost everywhere, and money: His July campaign finance report, the most recent he’s released, shows he’s raised about $3 million overall, compared to the governor’s whopping $36 million or so.
The “Jail” ad raises another pressing issue for the Cuomo campaign: How do you one-up your opponent when he accuses you of being, basically, as bad as nuclear war? There’s only one way: Look for images of Rob Astorino with a Hitler mustache, coming soon to a YouTube video near you.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 29, 2014