This political ad is smoking.
A YouTube video posted by Herman Cain’s campaign got tens of thousands of views Tuesday. And it wasn't because of the businessman turned presidential hopeful's message of curbing an overreaching government.
Or was it?
The 55-second video features Cain’s chief of staff, Mark Block, making his case for his boss as president, before taking a drag of a cigarette. The video, uploaded late last week, stayed relatively unnoticed over the weekend. In the last few days, it gained more than 120,000 views, most on Tuesday.
Dislikes outpaced likes nearly 3 to 1.
Some hypothesized that the campaign, which has seen a spike in support in recent weeks, was subliminally taking a stab at government regulations, including those on cigarettes. Block and Cain both said that was untrue.
“There was no subliminal message,” Block told Fox News on Tuesday. “In fact, I personally would encourage people not to smoke. It’s just that I’m a smoker.”
Cain said on a radio talk show Tuesday that a busy schedule has prevented him from being in more ads and instead they decided to have Block relay the campaign's message.
“The fact that Mark Block is a smoker is his choice and how that little piece at the end came about, I don't know, but we certainly did not expect this reaction,” Cain said on The Michael Berry Show.
More than 2,000 comments made on the video by Tuesday reflected a mix of support, disappointment, and confusion.
“You gotta be kidding,” wrote Bronco41ife. “The little smoking bit at the end has to go it just killed the video, and killing as in not good.”
“LOL, that is kind of bizarre. I can't wait to hear some explanation. Are they trying to get money from big tobacco? Are they sending a message to the persecuted smokers in America?” wrote 4SmallGov.
Interestingly, no one expressed concern about the possibly deleterious health effects of listening to Krista Branch’s Tea Party pop anthem, “I Am America,” that plays out the ad.
It isn't the first time a presidential primary has produced a confusing yet attention-grabbing ad in recent years. In 2007, former Democratic Sen. Mike Gravel from Alaska launched a video featuring him staring into a camera for over a minute before throwing a rock in a pond. He later called it “the dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”