SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota Republican campaign video depicting a Democratic House candidate jet-setting around the globe to earn environmental degrees and hosting a “raucous” corn dog party has gone viral, and both sides are claiming they benefit from the Web hits.
The YouTube video portrays U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem as a South Dakota farmer who stays in her home state while Democrat Matt Varilek studies abroad and presents environmental papers.
Varilek calls the spot a “rare attack ad that would benefit the attackee,” saying it’s goofy to criticize him for pursuing an education.
“And then to attack me for my love of corn dogs and beer, I feel strongly that the pro-corn dog segment of the electorate is going to come out in force,” Varilek said Monday.
The “Dueling Visions” video supporting Noem had logged more than 109,000 views as of Monday afternoon.
Noem campaign manager Tom Erickson deferred comment to the South Dakota Republican Party, which crafted the piece as homage of sorts to a television ad done by Florida Congressman Allen West.
Tony Post, the South Dakota GOP’s executive director, said the goal was to draw a stark contrast between Noem and Varilek.
“She is South Dakota, and he’s not,” Post said.
The video’s military intelligence briefing style presentation jumps back and forth between Varilek’s travels and Noem staying in South Dakota to farm, raise a family, serve in the state Legislature and earn agriculture awards from the Watertown Jaycees and South Dakota Soybean Association.
The cursor then zooms into Washington, D.C., as the voice-over announcer belts out a Varilek intelligence briefing over a backing track that sounds like something out of a “Mission Impossible” movie.
“2006: 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.”
Post said phones in the office have been ringing with mostly positive feedback, but officials are also proud of the negative feedback the video has drawn.
“I have told people, hey, if you don’t like it, go get a 150-pound ice luge and some corn dogs and go join Matt Varilek,” he said. “We’re running with it.”
The ad continues in 2008 with Varilek “back corndogging again” in Sioux Falls, achieving a rare “triple-double.” The feat is defined by National Corndog Day LLC as consuming 10 corn dogs, 10 beverages and 10 servings of 10 tater tots in a little more than nine hours.
Varilek said that was probably an example of overconsumption, but it was all in good fun.
He finds it interesting that the ad implies that pursuing an education outside his home state is a negative.
Varilek said he’s a fourth-generation South Dakota who was able to go to the Scotland’s University of Glasgow because a Yankton-area organization sent him there on an ambassadorial scholarship to study economic development.
His campaign took the unusual step of forwarding the video link to its entire email list, and supporters have shared it with numerous blogs.
The gossip website Gawker called the video “an excellent ad for her Democratic opponent.”
The GOP video is not the first video to go viral in the battle for South Dakota’s lone U.S. House seat.
In May, Democratic challenger Jeff Barth garnered some unexpected national attention with a primary campaign video that went viral online and aired on CNN. In it, he walks around farmland covered in goofy props talking about his time overseas, his military service and even his experience riding an ostrich.
At one point, Barth picks up a gun and fires — and a rubber chicken falls from the sky, apparently killed.
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