HNN Staff
EDITORIAL:  Political Gimmicks Still Fun

Political gimmicks have long been derided by political insiders but oftentimes are the delight of many voters.  The buttons, handouts, and other premiums given by politicians over the years have been extraordinarily effective pieces of Americana.

Cast your memory back to one gimmick used to elect President Abraham Lincoln.  The image of the "railsplitter" evoked a growing country, manly strength, and midwestern rural life and values.  Nevermind that Lincoln, a successful railroad lawyer by the time he ran for President, hadn't needed to split rails for decades.  But it was part of his life's story and came in handy in the elections of 1858 and 1860.

Closer to home, Governor Arch Moore had a musical radio ad that people still remember to this day.  Moore--a captain in World War II, who got a good part of his jaw shot off--turned to some jingle writer to bring a military-style march to life.

"Arch Moore!  Governor!  State of West Virginia!" was blared enough times that one almost instinctively started to get up and march around the neighborhood.  But it worked.

In the current race, we have Speaker Rick Thompson taking a page out of the musical playbook of Robert Byrd.  While Byrd played his fiddle all the way to Washington, D.C., Thompson is shown singing and playing the guitar in his first TV ad of the current primary.  It does have a way of warming the audience to him--who doesn't like a nice gospel tune?

On the Republican side, we have Betty Ireland playing off her last name on her signs, which feature a green four-leaf clover.  Is Ireland Irish?  Who knows, but it's an aesthetically-pleasing sign.

Grassroots supporters of one of Ireland's opponents, State Senator Clark Barnes, are handing out the beloved "Clark" chocolate bars to help build name recognition for their candidate and to give people a taste of their childhood again.

Probably the most important aspect of gimmicks from songs to cute symbols to candy is that they each show that the candidates using them have a sense of humor and don't take themselves way too seriously.

That's actually a quite important quality to have in a candidate who seeks the highest state office.