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‘Dumb Money’ is wasted on governor’s ads about nothing

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‘Dumb Money’ is wasted on governor’s ads about nothing

Oct 03, 2023 | 7:00 am ET
By Michael Leppert
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‘Dumb Money’ is wasted on governor’s ads about nothing
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GOP candidates for governor in their first ads: Brad Chambers, left, and Eric Doden, right. (Screenshots from ads)

I saw the new movie, “Dumb Money,” on Friday night. The movie tells the stories of several people, whose only connection to one another was their varied roles in the meteoric ride GameStop took on the stock exchange in 2021. Combined, these stories convey how complicated the concepts of value and values can be. 

The term “dumb money” is assigned to individual, noninstitutional investors. Insiders don’t give these folks much respect, and that lack of respect is what led to some insiders’ big losses on GameStop’s stock. 

What’s dumber money? Spending one’s personal wealth on a personal campaign for political office, particularly when there doesn’t appear to be a good reason. Or worse yet, any reason at all. This is how I see the two well-financed “outsiders” running for the Republican nomination for Indiana governor in 2024: Eric Doden and Brad Chambers. 

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Don’t get me wrong, these two men have just as good a shot as anyone at landing the nomination. Long odds of winning are not what makes either campaign dumb. What does is that both candidates appear to be void of a reason to run, other than their shared desire to be governor. 

What most Hoosiers have seen from these two campaigns is their opening ads. And after being doused with repeated exposures to both of them, I began to see troubling similarities.

First, both ads seem to have been made by the same producer. How so? The primary strategy is motion. Show the candidates moving. Walking and talking is a must. Small town, rural, or possibly even farming scenes are good, but there must be movement through these preferred settings to be effective. 

Second, faith. Faith, faith, and more faith. 

Doden

Eric Doden’s first ad shows a way to emphasize moving and faith at the same time. His “Grandson of a Preacher” biopic primarily satisfies both of these two devices. The part where he walks out of the country chapel’s door as his family converges on him in slow motion, choreographed perfectly from both sides of the shot is Rockwellian on performance-enhancing drugs.  

Yes, Doden is also a “…devoted family man and pro-life champion…” The video shows that he is “100% pro-life,” whatever that means. He’s never been elected to public office before, so I don’t know when he would have gotten a chance to be, say, a lowly 87% pro-life.

More interesting to me though is his claim of being a “visionary leader.” These details are the things that matter to me. I browsed his website to find them. I failed. I did see his campaign kickoff video that opens with former President Pro Tem of the Indiana Senate, David Long saying, “Eric is running because he has fresh ideas.” Again, these ideas should, or at least could, be the reasons for running. If he’s got them, he should lead with them. 

Chambers

Brad Chambers’ story starts “on a small family farm near Thorntown. Life wasn’t easy, but we were family. We had our faith and Hoosier values.” He mowed grass, worked hard, paid his way through college, and built a business that supports hundreds of people. He goes on to give a repeated message of being from here. He met his wife at IU. They raised their family in Indiana. Got it. 

What’s his pitch? “Career politicians want you to settle.” And Brad Chambers is not that, apparently because he’s “never run for office before.” But in a quick read of his difficult to find campaign website, he seems most proud of his time as the Indiana Secretary of Commerce. This is a politically appointed position he held for the last two years until he left it to run for governor. 

Dumb money

Gov. Eric Holcomb appointed Chambers. Former Gov. Mike Pence appointed Doden to what was functionally the same job at the time, the president of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. 

Look, I love a good outsider. Neither of these guys is that, but that’s not the problem with their introductions to Hoosier voters. Both campaigns appearing to be about nothing is. 

They have personal money and access to more. They are Republicans. They are from here. They are full of faith. They are family men. 

None of that is a reason to run for governor. And none of that is a reason to vote for them. 

It’s a clear trend in GOP politics: Try to win by not losing. It would be great if either of these outsiders were running on a platform, but they aren’t.

The dumb money responsible for GameStop’s ride on the market two years ago didn’t have anything to do with the business. And so far, neither of these campaigns have anything to do with being governor either.