WASHINGTON — The star of Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign ads this fall is a dashing young gentleman named “Jim the Election Guy,” who advises viewers against voting for “Taxin’ Tarryl Clark.”
Team Clark, suspecting that Jim not only wasn’t of the 6th District but that he’s not actually named Jim at all, responded with a series of ads featuring several versions of “Jim the Actual Voter” and blasting Bachmann’s Jim as a “fake.”
So who is the real Jim?
Well, multiple sources confirmed Wednesday that Jim is actually Beau Peregino, an actor who studied theater at Towson University in Maryland and lives now in California. Asked to verify the connection, Jay Herzog, a theater professor of Peregino’s at Towson, confirmed on seeing the ads in question that “that’s absolutely Beau.”
You probably haven’t heard of Peregino, whose experience largely consists of advertising spots, local theater in Maryland and some minor one-episode roles in television shows.
Those directly involved with the ad declined to comment on Peregino’s role as Jim. Peregino himself did not return multiple requests for comment, and a woman who answered the phone at his casting agency said it was standard practice not to disclose information about bookings.
Actors in ads: Does it matter?
The Bachmann camp refused to confirm or deny Peregino’s casting while questioning the value of the question itself.
“The point of the ad is not who he is,” said Sergio Gor, Bachmann’s campaign spokesman, “it’s that Tarryl Clark is in favor of raising taxes on everything.”
Clark campaign spokeswoman Carrie Lucking countered that the question is certainly relevant, given that he has become the face of Bachmann’s campaign messaging strategy. “Michele Bachmann has a fake Jim, a paid actor hurling allegations that are unfounded,” Lucking said, referring to one of the ads that media fact-checkers declared lacking in facts.
“It’s pretty unprecedented to use a paid actor from outside Minnesota,” Lucking said. “Who knows if this guy’s even met Michele Bachmann?”
Use of paid actors in ads isn’t exactly uncommon in political advertising, particularly for voice-overs. Further, an informal survey I did of campaign strategists found that most paid actors who fully appear in campaign ads reside in the state the commercial will run in. Rare, but not unheard of, is the paid actor whom the campaign isn’t already intimately acquainted with.
The preference is generally to have the candidate, candidate’s family or a voter do the talking. Examples of that are in the governor’s race, where the mother of a drunk driving victim hits Tom Emmer over charges that he drove drunk, and in a lighthearted pro-Emmer spot featuring his kids describing their dad as one who appreciates the values of hard work.
Not only do real voters have the benefit of speaking from personal experience, they are also usually fully known to the campaign they’re stumping for. Paid actors, while able to effectively deliver a line on cue, can sometimes be a bit of a distraction when those unknowns are discovered.
In the 2006 Senate election, the old lady on a bench with Mark Kennedy asking why he was saying nasty things about Amy Klobuchar (“Because they’re true,” he replied) was a paid actor who turned out to be an undecided voter. More recently and more famously, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 3 a.m. ad in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries (asking voters which candidate they’d want dealing with a national emergency at 3 a.m.) used stock footage of a little girl who turned out to have grown up into a 19-year-old Obama supporter.
Often, however, the use of actors in ads is discussed at some point by the chattering classes but ultimately ignored by voters at the polls.