San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's latest online ad for his gubernatorial campaign sure does pull on the proverbial heartstrings ... or at least it tries to.

The one-minute long ad seeks to frame the Democratic primary between Newsom and former Gov. Jerry Brown as a contest between the candidate of the future and the candidate of the past. "Will we nominate a candidate who knows Sacramento?" an adamant Newsom says in the ad, "Or leaders who know how to change it?"

Set to inspirational music, the ad the lists a long series of "This is the race" lines that signify the importance of next year's gubernatorial contest and also underscore Californian's increasingly sour view of their state government.




Allan Hoffenblum, the publisher of the California Target Book, summed up the ad succinctly: "I call it the 'give me your hand and I will lead you to the promise land’ type ad that charismatic candidates - particularly young male liberal candidates - have been doing for decades." Hoffenblum compared the theme of the ad to the idealist and inspirational 1968 Bobby Kennedy presidential campaign.

One can’t watch the ad without thinking of President Obama's campaign last year, which in some ways made "change" campaigns both in vogue and passé. But as Garry South, a senior adviser to Newsom, said, that change is a perennial theme in elections. "Barack Obama was not the first candidate who promised change," he said.

South, who ran Gray Davis's gubernatorial campaigns, pointed to a recent Field Poll that showed a whopping 78 percent of Californians believe the state is on the wrong track. "The primary message is one of reform," said South. "California state government is badly broken and completely dysfunctional."

Newsom "is an outsider," South added. "He's never served in Sacramento."

But the ad, which was produced by the New York-based A-Political, may also highlight some of the problems facing Newsom's candidacy. As Hoffenblum noted, these "give me your hand" ads are really about the candidate individually; the idea being that he or she is the person that can lead voters out of the current mess. In this respect, Newsom may still have to convince voters to take his hand. He remains tainted by personal problems and he trails Brown by 20 points in the latest Field Poll.

Still, Newsom has the advantage right now of being the only declared Democratic candidate out there. South said this is the first of a series of online ads in what looks like it will be a long Democratic primary race.

Jeremy P. Jacobs is the staff writer at Politics. He can be reached at jjacobs@politicsmagazine.com