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Big Bad John

I’m really rather amazed at how long this has been in the news.

Is U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s Big Bad John campaign video a big black eye for him?

His staff says absolutely not, painting the attention-getting video as a “winner.” But Democrats are reacting with glee to the video, which includes Cornyn in a cowboy hat and fringed jacket, plus a rewrite of the song to include lines: “He rose to the top in just one term, kept Texas in power, made lesser states squirm. Big John. Big John. Big John. Yeah, Big Bad John.”

Rep. Rick Noriega, the Houston Democrat challenging Cornyn, posted his own version of the video on his campaign Web site as a fundraising tool.


Political scientists don’t think it’s a turning point.

“My guess is this is all going to turn out to be much ado about nothing,” said political scientist Bruce Buchanan of the University of Texas at Austin.

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, said it’s likely “a blip” and thinks Cornyn is heavily favored to win but added, “I don’t think it was especially good for his reputation, either. … It will stay with him.”

While I agree that the original Cornyn video, as ridiculous as it is in a Dukakis-in-a-tank kind of way, is unlikely to sway many voters, it has had the effect of raising the profile of this race nationally, and I daresay has helped Noriega’s fundraising, which is a critical matter for him. The bad news about this being such a great year to run for office as a Democrat is that there’s a lot more competition for buzz and funding. On that score, given how widely these videos have been linked, often by bloggers who’d had no previous interest in the race, it’s definitely been a boon for Noriega.

Texas Republicans reacted with outrage after Matthew Miller of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee distributed a link to The Daily Show segment and said that Cornyn, in donning the fancy jacket, “appears to have raided the wardrobe closet for the Kilgore Rangerettes.”

State GOP spokesman Hans Klingler described the moves as “ethnic and racial assaults,” and Texas Republican Hispanic Association President Reggie Gonzalez called the remarks insensitive because, the party explained, Cornyn was wearing a “Tamaulipeca jacket … designed in the Hispanic tradition” at a Charro Days celebration in Brownsville.

Miller said he’d let The Daily Show defend its own humor and added, “No one is making fun of the clothes. They’re laughing at how silly Rhinestone Cowboy John Cornyn looks in them.”

(Stewart did question how Cornyn found the jacket in an adult size.)

Of Beckwith’s suggestion that those who don’t like the video are anti-Texan, Miller said, “I grew up in Amarillo and went to school in Austin. I don’t know a whole lot of Texans who would look at that … and think that it helps John Cornyn.”

I’ve no idea if the claim about a “Tamaulipeca jacket” is true or not. What I do know is that this is exactly the sort of imagery most of my high school classmates in New York City had in mind when they heard I was going to college in Texas. As a lifelong urbanite, as well as a naturalized Texan, the whole cowboy-mystique thing has never moved me. Texas is an increasingly urban state, populated more and more by people who weren’t born here or who were born to people who weren’t born here, so I have to think there’s a lot of folks here for whom the same is true. Maybe I’m wrong about that – Lord knows, the automotive industry still drowns us in rural/cowboy motifs as it tries to sell pickup trucks and Suburbans – but I’d bet this is more true now than ever before. All I know is that the “Big John” video strikes me as an anachronism, like it was made by people from one coast or the other based on their limited perception of the state of Texas and its people. Oh, and that the fringey attire looks silly and completely out of place on Cornyn, authentic or not.

Anyway, here are the videos, in case you haven’t seen them. Here’s the original:

And the Noriega response:

Rumor now has it that David Beckwith, the consultant who made the “Big John” video, has been fired by the campaign. That would not be the first time he’s gotten himself in trouble with Big John. Some people never learn, I guess. Anyway, seeing as how the quarterly reporting deadline for campaign fundraising is tomorrow, now would be a good time to contribute to Rick Noriega. There’s more than one way to measure the impact of a campaign event, after all.

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One Comment

  1. RedScare says:

    Kuff, you left out the best quote in the article…

    As for the jacket, Hernandez said, “I’m Hispanic. I see the jacket, and I think, ‘Davy Crockett.’ ”