Mike Huckabee is a fan of the classics.
His latest campaign ad, released Friday morning, is a near-exact replica of Lyndon Johnson's seminal "Daisy" spot, which revolutionized campaign advertising when it aired one night—and one night only—in 1964.
Both ads use the same footage of a little girl picking the petals off a daisy in a lush field before she's implicitly killed by a nuclear bomb. From there, the messages diverge: Huckabee's ad warns against a nuclear-armed Iran, whereas Johnson's was meant to caution voters against Republican opponent Barry Goldwater, who used aggressive rhetoric about waging nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
It's not surprising that Huckabee would use the "Daisy" footage in a campaign ad—he's never been one to shy away from the kind of aggressive messaging that Johnson used 50 years ago, to much controversy. Back then, it was the first time that an ad had been designed to stoke voters' fears over a specific candidate.
But Huckabee's target is bigger: Not only is he warning about a more powerful Iran, but he's going after the Obama administration for its ongoing negotiations with Tehran and, as he sees it, not protecting its ally Israel. The ad says that "a threat to Israel is a threat to America," and it encourages voters to sign a letter on Huckabee's website to Secretary of State John Kerry. (As a bonus, Huckabee gets some voter data.)
The Huckabee campaign credits the Democratic National Committee in the ad for the "Daisy" footage, which campaign communications director Alice Stewart said it grabbed from the Johnson presidential library website.
However, the DNC "did not authorize its use, and its use is discourteous," committee spokeswoman Holly Shulman said.
Asked why the campaign chose to use the Johnson-era clip, Stewart said the new ad is an update on the old one—something that doesn't necessarily come across.
"The message of the video is that the threat posed by nuclear weapons is greater now because of the failure of the Obama administration to stand up to Iran," Stewart said, though nothing in the video explicitly says the country is worse off now. "For some unfathomable reason, Democrats today choose to ignore the threat of a nuclear Iran, but even Democrats back then knew how disastrous a nuclear weapon would be in the hands of a madman."
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.