When Scott Brown won his race for Massachusetts Senate this past winter, it was the first sign that the Democratic Party might be in trouble come November. But Brown's real legacy, which has blossomed over this election season, is the starring role old cars and trucks have been playing in campaigns.
Republicans and Democrats alike have cut ads that begin just as Brown's did: the candidate introduces himself, then his truck. "This is my truck." These trucks (or occasionally, sedans) tend to have more than 100,000 miles on them—Brown's had 199,467 at the time he made his ad—and to be at least five years old. Most often, the candidate is touring his district, connecting with his constituents. Watching some of these ads, or reading about listening tours on campaign Web sites, voters might imagine that members of Congress do nothing more than spend their time on the open road, in dusty old beaters, seeking out the average American.
One of the advantages that campaign strategists have is that most Americans don't pay much attention to races outside their own domains. So while these candidates' attachment to their trucks is uncannily similar to Brown's, their campaigns claim they haven't heard voters draw comparisons. Watching the ads side by side, however, it's hard to believe that the candidates and their staff didn't notice they were riffing on a winning strategy.
Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer based in New York.