By Paul Egan and Kathleen Gray
They say a politician should never be photographed wearing a funny hat, but they never said anything about a mask and a snorkel.
That's how Gov. Rick Snyder is initially featured in his Hollywood-produced Super Bowl ad that officially kicks off his re-election campaign today -- floating to the top of a pool of water in a wet suit and snorkel.
"Some call him a nerd," says the narrator, as Snyder surfaces, removes his mask, and smiles. "But Michigan now calls him the comeback kid."
Backed by the strains of a saxophone, the 60-second ad leads viewers on a tour of familiar sites such as the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, the Capitol and Michigan dunes as the narrator tells how "politicians had pushed Michigan down to the bottom of the barrel" until Snyder was elected in 2010.
Snyder started making overdue changes, killing business taxes and helping to attract 220,000 new private sector jobs, the ad says.
"Our governor loves budgets, ignores politics and brings results," the ad says. The ad closes with a sweeping aerial view of Detroit and the Renaissance Center, followed by a close-up and closing shot of Snyder.
The ad was produced by Strategic Perception, the California firm headed by Fred Davis. It's estimated to cost more than $500,000 for air time today, with production costs putting it in the $700,000 range.
Democrats previewed their own message Friday for the upcoming gubernatorial election.
They'll tag Snyder with pushing through a $1.8-billion tax cut for business, while simultaneously putting a tax on senior citizen pensions, cutting tax breaks and credits for low- and middle-income families, and slashing contributions to public education.
"That's just not the Michigan way," said Lon Johnson, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party.
Meanwhile, liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan put out their own web-based ad, mocking Snyder's Super Bowl ad.
Using an actor dressed in a Snyder-esque gray wig and blue shirt, without a tie, the governor is characterized as "The best punter in the state of Michigan," not interested in things like equal treatment for the LGBT community or raising the minimum wage.
"I'm even more proud of my ability to dodge accountability and to punt on issues that are important to you when questioned by voters and the media," the actor says in the video.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer's campaign said it's no surprise that Snyder is looking to "rebrand" his image with pricey ads and a re-election tour set to kick off Monday .
"It's no surprise that the governor is so anxious to whitewash his record," said Schauer spokesman Zack Pohl. "The people of Michigan won't be fooled."
Davis, who produced Snyder's ad, is known for his unusual ads and has produced many considered winners for his clients, including former President George W. Bush and Arizona Sen. John McCain. Among his ads that have been praised is the "One Tough Nerd" Super Bowl ad Snyder used to burst onto the political scene in 2010.
Davis has also laid some eggs. His 2012 ad for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra, featuring an Asian woman speaking broken English, was widely criticized as racially insensitive and damaging to Hoekstra's unsuccessful campaign.
Snyder launches his campaign for a second four-year term on Monday with stops in Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids.
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