Susan Morris sez: These are Ron Anderson's words. I'm just the typist ツ
The year was 1978. Wendell Anderson was a two-term Democratic Governor from Minnesota. Very popular. Handsome to a fault. Even played hockey for the University of Minnesota. Scandinavian. What more could you want in Minnesota?
Unfortunately, Wendell Anderson made one strategic mistake. After the death of Hubert Humphrey and the ascension of Walter Mondale, the Governor had the power to appoint a Senate seat. He appointed himself. In Minnesota, we don’t do things like that. His popularity plummeted.
Now when the campaign for re-election to the Senate began, he was opposed by Rudy Boschwitz, a not nearly as popular, millionaire Republican businessman.
Mr. Boschwitz, not wanting to take any chances, appointed a Baltimore political agency that would know what they were doing.
That agency, not wanting to take any chances, looked at the polls—which at this point early in the campaign showed Boschwitz leading the self-appointed Senator by as much as 30 points—and said, “Let’s just do sing-song-run-and-jump-in-the-park commercials with Rudy. Can’t offend. No risk. It’s a no brainer.”
Their no risk, no brainer strategy didn’t work. Four months of run-and-jump-in-the-park commercials later, the disenfranchised handsome senator, Wendell Anderson, had been forgiven and was now leading in the polls.
With 45 days until the vote, it was clearly time for the Republicans to take some risks.
Their first risk? Hiring a local agency not known for political campaigns, Bozell & Jacobs.
With just six weeks left, we were faced with creating a catch-up campaign against the popular incumbent.
And since the main accomplishment of our candidate, Rudy Boschwitz, had been how well he could sell plywood, we knew we had to go for the incumbent’s throat.
That was risk #2. Because the people of Minnesota don’t especially care for direct attacks. We felt, however, they should be reminded of his self-appointment. In addition, our research in the Congressional record indicated an absolutely abysmal record in voting attendance.
So that was our strategy. A single-minded attack on his record.
We created some print ads. And made an inexpensive TV spot.
Boschwitz won going away. And was credited with the momentum for a Republican sweep, the other Senate seat, and the Governor’s race.
That evening, Walter Cronkite, talking to Dan Rather, attributed it to “the best political campaign of the year.”
TV ANNCR (VO): Remember when Wendell Anderson had the power to appoint a U. S. Senator from Minnesota? He could have appointed any number of fine people.
Among members of his own party, he might have appointed John Blatnik, a 20-year veteran of Congress and former Chairman of the Public Works Committee.
He might have appointed Nick Coleman, Majority leader of the Minnesota State Senate.
He might have appointed Rosalie Wahl, Minnesota State Supreme Court Justice.
He might have appointed Joe Karth, a Congressman and member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.
He might have appointed Warren Spannous, widely respected Minnesota State Attorney General for eight years.
But what did Wendell Anderson do?
He appointed himself to the U. S. Senate.
Wendell Anderson wanted to get to the U.S. Senate in the worst way.
And that’s exactly how he got there.
On November 7th, let’s put Rudy Boschwitz in the U.S. Senate.
RON ANDERSON, art director/creative director
TOM McELLIGOTT, writer
RON ANDERSON/TOM McELLIGOTT, producers, directors
WTCN-TV, production company
PEOPLE FOR BOSCHWITZ, client
Susan — I’d love to chat with Ron about the ’78 campaign. I am writing a history on the rise of Boschwitz and that ad played a major role — thanks!
HAH! I never heard that part of the story! Thanks, Bruce, for sharing it. And for your kind words ツ
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Ron told me this story several times. He would say that he received a call from the Boshwitz camp after the successful campaign; expecting a congratulatory call, they had actually called to question the Bozell invoice! Thus making the point that no good turn goes unpunished! Thanks for these great stories.
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