For politicians, there’s possibility and peril in a joke.
One that is truly funny can break through the clutter and connect with voters. But one that falls flat can leave a pol being laughed at, not with.
That’s why many elected officials and hopefuls keep their head down on April Fools’ Day without any attempts at humor.
But at least two candidates in Massachusetts today took the plunge.
Jeffrey S. McCormick, a little-known independent candidate for governor, jumped in the deepest end of the pool, releasing a faux-biographical YouTube video narrated by former ABC News reporter Sam Donaldson.
It claims McCormick’s first word as a baby was “jobs” and shows him, in fake photographs, standing alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy at the White House and later with Nelson Mandela and Albert Einstein.
The strange twist with the video is that voters do not yet know the true contours of McCormick’s biography, so it’s unclear which, if any, of the data points cited are anchored in his actual life story.
McCormick spokesman Peter Wilson said the 70-second video was just intended to draw a chuckle on April Fools’ Day.
“It has to be a little over the top so people understand it’s not a straight video,” he said, adding that it also reinforces “the message about his background.”
Wilson said Donaldson’s daughter has a contract with the campaign, which was its connection to the former newsman.
“We thought we’d just have a little fun with it,” he said.
Despite the attempt at lightheartedness, some Democratic political observers gave it two thumbs down.
“It’s funny....if someone’s pulling a joke on Jeff McCormick,” said Democratic strategist Scott Ferson in an e-mail. “They really got him with this one.”
“I think it must have been Steve Grossman’s kidney stone,” Ferson cracked, referring to another gubernatorial candidate, Steven Grossman, who has sent out fund-raising e-mails (no joke!) about a recent kidney stone attack.
The campaign of Richard Tisei, a Republican hoping to unseat US Representative John Tierney, also jumped on the April Fools’ Day wagon, if with a little less panache.
In an e-mail headlined “April Fools!” the campaign took aim at Tierney, releasing photographs of him on the telephone with captions tying him to Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic Leader.
“Hello, Nancy? What should I do?” says the caption on one.
Tisei campaign manager Ryan Gough said the rhetoric was meant to be both humorous and substantial.
“The means were funny, but we were trying to get a message across,” he said.
But his candidate, Gough assured, was on the campaign trail and not engaged in any tomfoolery today.
In an e-mail, Tierney’s campaign manager, Ryan Matthews, said, “No surprise that Richard is trying to detract from the Ryan Budget by sending out an April Fools email,” referring to a spending plan proposed today by US Representative Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin.
“However,” Matthews added, “what Ryan and the Republicans are trying to do is no joke...”