Video: Herm Cain "Smoking Ad" Has Pundits Gasping

By Will Godfrey 10/25/11

An up-close ad starring the maverick candidate's campaign manager smoking on camera stirs up a media storm.

Block being Block in the video Photo via

Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain has released a cheeky smoke-fueled campaign commercial that's been described in some quarters as the "worst ad in the history of politics," and hailed by others as a brilliant piece of political theater. In the online video, Cain's weathered campaign manager, Mark Block, extols the former Pizza King's ability to "put the United back in the United States" for 40 seconds of moustachioed close-up, before taking a deep drag on his cigarette, as a burst of patriotic music (I Am America) swells and the picture cuts to an intimate view of a mischievously grinning Herman Cain. The in-your-face smoking is a strange choice, given the growing taboos against depicting tobacco use in movies and on TV, but it's certainly garnered the Cain campaign some attention. The candidate, whose conservative views and "9-9-9" tax plan are seeing him top polls of Republican voters, has a record of lobbying in Washington against cigarette taxes and smoking bans. Mark Block later responded by email to a CBS query: "Only comment is—I smoke. It's a choice. It's Block being Block." This rapidly-spreading video has already achieved far more publicity than Block and his acolytes could ever have dreamed, and will certainly appeal to libertarians tired of increasing government encroachment on their personal rights. But it will be interesting to see whether being the unwitting butt of a thousand jokes will bring the desired rewards for the Cain candidacy.

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Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.