Initially, it looked like the first socially distanced campaign ad of the cycle. But I knew I had seen those well-spaced Montanans before.
Montana Republican Matt Rosendale is on the air with a 15-second television ad in the Billings market, according to Kantar/CMAG, ahead of the June 2 primary. Rosendale, the state auditor, is a top contender for the open seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte, who is running for governor, again.
“Liberals are fighting President Trump on illegal immigration,” Rosendale says in the ad, seated in a circle of supporters. “They push for amnesty. They protect sanctuary cities. I stand with President Trump, and we’ll build that wall.”
While the first ring of Montanans are seated less than a foot apart, those in the second ring are multiple feet apart and could almost pass for proper social distancing in the coronavirus era.
Maybe Montanans were visionaries, but the spacing was awkward a couple years ago, when the footage first ran.
Rosendale’s current 15-second ad for the House is a shorter version of a 30-second ad he ran two years ago in his unsuccessful run for the Senate.
The 2018 version, entitled “Get Tough,” includes the lines and footage from the new 15-second spot as well as an attack on Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, who went on to beat Rosendale, 50 percent to 47 percent, last cycle.
Rosendale’s ad demonstrates that while the country and world have changed dramatically with COVID-19, some things stay the same, including, literally, some of his campaign messaging.
The ad is also just one example of the tension ad-makers are facing about how much to acknowledge and reflect current social protocols in campaign ads. For now, most campaigns are choosing to stick with the pre-coronavirus footage, which makes for some jarring viewing contrasted with what’s happening in the world outside.
Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst for CQ Roll Call.