Museum of the Moving Image
The Living Room Candidate - Transcript
"The Man from Abilene," Eisenhower, 1952
[TEXT: A Political Announcement paid for by Citizens for Eisenhower]
MALE NARRATOR #1 (voice echoing): The man from Abilene.
[TEXT: The MAN FROM ABILENE]
MALE NARRATOR #1: Out of the heartland of America, out of this small frame house in Abilene, Kansas, came a man, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Through the crucial hour of historic D-Day, he brought us to the triumph and peace of VE Day. Now, another crucial hour in our history—the big question:
MAN: General, if war comes, is this country really ready?
EISENHOWER: It is not. The Administration has spent many billions of dollars for national defense. Yet today, we haven't enough tanks for the fighting in Korea. It is time for a change.
MALE NARRATOR #1: The nation, haunted by the stalemate in Korea, looks to Eisenhower. Eisenhower knows how to deal with the Russians. He has met Europe leaders, has got them working with us. Elect the number one man for the number one job of our time.
(Voice echoing) November 4th vote for peace. Vote for Eisenhower.
MALE NARRATOR #2: A paid film.
[TEXT: A PAID POLITICAL FILM]
Although Dwight Eisenhower was one of the most popular and admired Americans, his ad “The Man from Abilene” also established him as someone who was both an outsider in Washington (raised in the heartland) and uniquely qualified to lead the country out of the Korean War.
The “outsider” theme was also emphasized by Jimmy Carter, who was shown in a denim work shirt on a peanut farm in “Bio,” an ad that effectively played on the public’s cynicism about Washington in the post-Watergate years.
Although Ronald Reagan was also a Washington outsider, his ad “Reagan's Record” emphasized his executive ability as governor of California, in order to ease concerns that the former actor was not qualified for high office.
The George Bush 1988 ad “Family/Children” combined his public record, and combat footage from World War II, with warm images of the candidate with his grandchildren and his wife, humanizing and softening the image of a man best known for his extensive government service.
In contrast, Michael Dukakis’s spot “New Era” highlighted a problem of his campaign. Based on the idea of “competence, not ideology,” Dukakis’s ads offered no glimpse into the private man, even though his life story as the son of immigrants could have been compelling.
Photographs of a young Bill Clinton shaking President John F. Kennedy’s hand at the White House in 1962 provided the most magical moment in the effective biographical ad “Journey.”
Like “Journey,” this spot emphasized an almost mythical version of Bob Dole’s humble small-town upbringing. It also reminded voters of his valorous service in World War II.
Al Gore’s ad “1969” highlighted his service in Vietnam, but foreign policy and the military were not key concerns during the 2000 election.
John Kerry’s war record was used effectively in the beginning of this ad, which then undercut its impact by reminding voters of the candidate’s “privileged” upbringing and Ivy League education.
Barack Obama's biographical ad focuses on his Midwestern "Heartland" values, just as did Dwight Eisenhower's ad "Man from Abilene" in 1952.