Dan Rodricks

Dan Rodricks: Wait, what? Democrats help a Trumpie in GOP primary. Clang. Kaboom! | COMMENTARY

So there I was, reclined on my couch, watching the Orioles play the Twins, when this commercial comes on about Dan Cox, Republican candidate for governor of Maryland. It has menacing movie music, the sounds of clanging steel and kabooms. Definitely gets my attention.

Suddenly there’s a thumbs-up picture of the former president, Donald Trump, with Cox, standing in what appears to be the Oval Office. The narrator says Cox is Trump’s “hand-picked candidate for Maryland governor.”


Clang. Kaboom!

The narrator then says Cox “worked with Trump, trying to prove the last election was a fraud.”


I’m thinking, if I’m a Trump-supporting, Big Lie-embracing Maryland Republican, this guy Cox sounds pretty good.

Clang. Kaboom!

Now I see a slo-mo family-man video of Cox with his wife and their kids. (They have 10.)

“One hundred percent pro-life,” the narrator says, “he’s fighting to end abortion in Maryland.”

Now, I’m thinking, if I’m a Trump-supporting, Big Lie-embracing, anti-abortion Christian who thinks women should be forced to make babies they do not want, Cox is the man for me.

Suddenly the images switch to guns. So many guns, and then a guy aiming a gun. There’s even the sound of a gun.


“Cox will protect the Second Amendment at all costs,” the narrator affirms.


At all costs?

If I’m a Trump-supporting, Big Lie-embracing, anti-abortion Christian who wants women making babies they do not want and people carrying as many guns as they like, I like the sounds of that. It’s dreamily bellicose. Cox is definitely the man for me.

I’m thinking this is one slick, powerful commercial for Cox for governor. Who knew he had that kind of money?

But, suddenly, in the very next instant, the narrator says: “Dan Cox, too close to Trump, too conservative for Maryland.”

Wait, what?

My brain suffered whiplash. Good thing I was on the couch.


Wasn’t this a pro-Cox commercial, appealing to the Trump-supporting, Big Lie-embracing anti-abortion Christians who want women making babies and people carrying guns?

“DGA Action is responsible for the content of this advertising,” the narrator says at the end.

What’s DGA Action?

It’s the political action committee of the Democratic Governors Association.

So I’ve just watched — and assume other Orioles fans have just watched — a 30-second commercial that is more than two-thirds positive for Dan Cox and less than one-third anti-Cox, and paid for by Democrats.

Are you following me so far, or do I need to hit the replay button?


As confusing as this sounds, I think we’ve just witnessed political advertising genius.

If you’re a Trump supporter and a Maryland Republican who plans to vote in this month’s primary election, the ad has you loving Cox.

If you’re a Democrat, the ad affirms your belief that anyone affiliated with Trump has no business being governor of Maryland.

I’ve got to hand it to the makers of this spot: An ad that sounds richly positive for Cox — Big Lie, anti-abortion, guns and more guns — is actually opposed to Cox, but only at the very end.

In a tweet on July 1, Cox claimed the commercial was an attack ad.

But it’s less than a third that, and Cox should probably show some gratitude for the DGA’s contribution to his MAGA messaging.


Of course, some Never Trump Republicans and righteous Democrats are outraged that the DGA paid for an ad that is more than 66% positive for a right-wing extremist who promises to stop “Marxist teaching” and “gender indoctrination” in Maryland public schools.

Kelly Schulz, the former state commerce secretary seeking the Republican nomination for governor, expressed outrage that the DGA was putting money behind Cox, and joining her in crying foul is her most important backer, Gov. Larry Hogan.

The DGA claims it is just trying to get ahead of the game, sensing that Cox will beat Schulz in the primary and face the Democratic candidate in November.

Like the “Meet Dan” ad the DGA just put out, the Democrats want to have it both ways.

They claim they expect Cox to win the primary, when there’s no guarantee of that. (Expecting Maryland Republicans to go from Hogan, a Never Trumper, to a guy who aids and abets Trump’s Big Lie still looks like a stretch.)

On the other hand, given Hogan’s prevailing popularity after two terms, it would seem Schulz has the best chance of winning in November. That’s what the DGA must worry about — that too many independents and conservative Democrats will be glad to keep a Hogan-like Republican in the governor’s mansion for another eight years.


Thus the DGA support of Cox. They would rather have the Democratic nominee face him than Schulz.

As for those who think Democrats have no business messing with the GOP primary and backing extremist candidates on the far right, especially those who support the Big Lie, I have to agree: If Democrats want to take the high road in politics, they can’t be helping Trumpers in any way.

On the other hand, the first business of politics is to win, and Cox winning the Republican primary in July most likely helps a Democrat win the general in November.

Thus the genius of the DGA “Meet Dan” ad: It pumps him up, then tears him down. It gets Maryland Trumpies excited about voting for him and Maryland Democrats excited about voting against him. Who says you can’t have it both ways?

Clang. Kaboom!