The Existential Horror of David Dewhurst’s New Ad Blitz

Can you hear us in there, Dewhurst woman?
Can you hear us in there, Dewhurst woman?

When Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst first went negative against his opponent state Sen. Dan Patrick, he did so with a somewhat strange ad that featured a young woman staring glumly at the camera over an oddly-held cup of coffee.

“It’s a struggle, but I pay my bills,” said the woman, sunk in an aging green armchair. “So why can’t millionaire Dan Patrick?” Then a voiceover related salient details from Patrick’s background: He had changed his name, and he had declared bankruptcy to write off some substantial debts. “If we can’t trust him to run his own business honestly,” the nameless everywoman concluded, looking more irate every second, “how can we ever trust him to run the state honestly?”

The ad received a lot of negative attention, in part because Dewhurst’s contention that Patrick changed his name to escape debts wasn’t, you know, true, and because Dewhurst has had debt trouble of his own.

But this morning, the woman returned. And her appearance raises many more questions than it answers. Instead of a glum woman in a dark room with a coffee cup, she’s been transformed into a perky millennial in an IKEA-styled living room ready to dish out snark Dan’s way.

Even stranger—she thinks Dan’s anger over the ad was directed at her. As in, her personally.

“I’m literally shocked,” she intones, throwing her hands up in the air. “Dan Patrick or Dannie Goeb or whatever he’s calling himself today now is attacking me in his latest false ad. Unfortunately for him,” she continues, millennial-ly, “there’s something called the internet.”

Some campaign ads feature actors posing as real people, but the Dewhurst woman isn’t really pretending to be a real person—the ad doesn’t even offer her name. She’s clearly an actress playing a character. A character which is breaking the fourth wall and appears to have gained sentience and an awareness of life outside her attack ads. It’s incredibly odd—it’s unusual, to say the least, for a campaign to create characters that experience a continuity of existence from attack ad to attack ad.

Questions abound. Is she trapped in there? What is the internal life of this character like? Why does she hate Patrick so much? Why does she suffer from such dramatic mood swings? Why are the different rooms of her house decorated so differently? Why does she think Patrick is attacking her, and not the candidate she’s flacking for?

An enhanced image of the Dewhurst woman's picture frames.
An enhanced image of the Dewhurst woman’s picture frames. (Click for a larger version.)

Is she lonely? A careful analysis of the two picture frames on her shelf—the only evidence of life, other than the woman herself, in this nightmare universe of Dewhurst attack ads—shows what might be a cat or dog, licking itself, or sleeping. The other frame is too blurry to make out. Is that the grim visage of a skull in the top half, draped in red? Is it a clue to the Dewhurst woman’s origins?

Much like TV’s Lost, I have a feeling that the questions raised won’t be given satisfactory treatment by the series finale, the May 27 runoff. But I hope we see the Dewhurst woman again. Maybe she’ll get a spin-off. Maybe she can get work displaying the emotions of shock and disgust for Sid Miller’s campaign.

If the Kafkaesque plight of Dewhurst woman isn’t your thing, the Dew dropped another ad today—this one operating on the principles of the naturalist, slow-paced documentaries of, say, Werner Herzog. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who recently accused Patrick of being a draft dodger, sat to do a web ad for Dewhurst. The first half of the two-minute ad is just Patterson talking about his guns, at what seems to be his kitchen table, before he switches to tough talk on Patrick. It’s oddly hypnotic.

Meanwhile, remember that ad Dew’s team ran that used pictures of Patrick shirtless at what turned out to be a charity event for disabled children? Dewhurst got major blowback, and told people he’d pull the offending parts of the ad. But it’s still running, nearly two weeks later. Here’s a version of it on Dewhurst’s YouTube page.

Two weeks to go.

Christopher Hooks is a staff writer covering politics.

Published at 8:00 am CST