Fred Davis in the spotlight

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Fred Davis, Jim Inhofe at the Republican National Convention, by Michael Bates

I had been hearing about this famous/infamous ad-man for years, a native Tulsan and the nephew of Sen. Jim Inhofe, but I had never met him and had no idea what he looked like until I was on the convention floor Wednesday night and spotted Neil Munro of the National Journal next to the Oklahoma delegation. (Neil, Stephen Spruiell of National Review, Kate Hunter of Congressional Quarterly, and I comprised the entire press corps covering the Committee on Rules and Order of Business last Friday.)

I went over to say hello, and Neil called my attention to someone with luxuriantly flowing blond hair standing behind the delegation, next to Inhofe. He told me it was Fred Davis, McCain's attack ad man.

Neil had a profile of Davis in Tuesday's convention edition of National Journal:

Television ads are the background rhythm of a presidential campaign, and Republican Sen. John McCain's drummer -- ad man Fred Davis -- is already accelerating the beat and playing his signature riffs.

He has in the works a television ad that contrasts Democratic nominee Barack Obama's life as a politician in Chicago with that of his half-brother in Kenya, who lives in a shack on an unpaved street. Davis, chairman of Strategic Perception, McCain's advertising firm, said that the images are meant as a sharp-edged counterpoint to a theme in Obama's acceptance speech last week, in which he declared, "I am my brother's keeper; I am my sister's keeper."...

Davis sketched out his advertising strategy for a breakfast at the Minneapolis Hyatt Hotel recently, revving up the crowd with a selection of his past spots and an anti-Obama ad that was pulled before it could be run. The ad portrayed an Obama supporter in Texas being asked to cite an Obama accomplishment; he remains open-mouthed and silent for several seconds -- as if to suggest that he could think of nothing Obama had ever done.

Ultimately, the ad was discarded because it also showed a similarly nonplussed Democratic legislator who has since died. "There's plenty more in the can, soon to come," Davis promised.

MORE: Here's a 2006 National Journal Q&A with Davis, in which he talks about his first major race, his uncle's 1994 run for Senate. I don't recall Inhofe being as much of an underdog as Davis suggests, but I could be misremembering. That was a big year for Republicans across the board and a near sweep of statewide offices in Oklahoma.

And a couple of weeks ago, Townhall's Matt Lewis had this:

I'm hearing that tensions were high recently when veteran actor Robert Duvall was taping a voice-over for a video to be played during the Republican National Convention. Apparently, the veteran actor objected to the direction he was receiving from Republican media guru Fred Davis. According to my sources, Duvall said something along the lines of: "F-you Fred! If Scorsese couldn't give me direction, what the hell makes you think you can?" Though this blow-up is actually recorded on tape, my guess is it's in everyone's best interest for this to not leak out ...

If memory serves, Davis was responsible for Bob Sullivan's attack ads in his 2006 Republican Governor's campaign against Ernest Istook. Here's the one featuring Gailard Sartain:

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 5, 2008 11:50 PM.

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