Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis released a new campaign ad that is a bizarre spoof of the 1980s hit Top Gun.
The ad was quickly compared to one of the worst political ads in United States history.
DeSantis' ad—called "Top Guv"—shows DeSantis launching into attacks against "corporate media." At one point, DeSantis discusses the "rules of engagement" for dealing with pesky journalists and the ad shows him ignoring them, declining to answer their questions altogether.
Ironically, the ad was first posted to social media by his wife, Casey DeSantis, who at one point was a local newscaster and anchor for WJXT, an independent station in Jacksonville, Florida. She also did special reports, including for CNN.
You can watch it below.
Once DeSantis appeared onscreen, he said:
"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. This is your governor speaking."
"Today's training evolution: Dogfighting. Taking on the corporate media. The rules of engagement are as follows."
"Number one: Don't fire unless fired upon, but when they fire, you fire back with overwhelming force."
"Number two: Never ever back down from a fight."
"Number three: Don't accept their narrative."
The ad—peppered with footage of DeSantis arguing with journalists and dodging questions—ended with an image of a small child declaring:
"Let's turn and burn."
It's a nod to dialogue in both the first and second Top Gun films and refers to a specific flying maneuver.
But the ad has not been well received.
DeSantis' ad was compared to a now-infamous fumble on the part of former Massachusetts Democratic Governor Michael Dukakis that is commonly considered one of the worst political ads in the history of the medium.
During the 1988 presidential campaign, Democratic nominee Dukakis was criticized for a perceived softness on defense issues and needed to find a way to convince voters he would be a tough President.
Dukakis decided to spend more time discussing defense issues on the campaign trail and went on a visit to a General Dynamics plant in Michigan where he planned to ride in an M1 Abrams tank.
General Dynamics protocol required one to wear a protective helmet for safety and communication when the tank was running at full speed, although Dukakis campaign staffers were aware a politician putting on any headgear was a faux pas.
The phrase "Dukakis in the tank" remains a shorthand for backfired public relations outings.
A member of the press did photograph Dukakis without the helmet when the tank exited the garage at slow speed, however the rest of the photographers snapped shots of Dukakis wearing a helmet when the tank made a high speed pass.
The image of Dukakis wearing a helmet while riding the tank was widely ridiculed, particularly by then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, the Republican who would go on to win the election after releasing an ad that featured footage of Dukakis in the tank and criticized his foreign policy positions.
It's also what came to mind for many Twitter users who considered DeSantis' ad a misstep.
Funnily enough, earlier this year Top Gun: Maverick—the follow-up to the classic film featuring Tom Cruise reprising one of the most famous roles of his career—was referenced by right-wing news hosts in digs at Democrats.
Steve Gruber—a personality on the conservative network Real America's Voice—was widely mocked after he suggested the film's massive box office success spelled doom for Democrats in the 2022 midterms.
Gruber declared in a rambling statement:
"American pride that will be reawakening and it will be Americans reawakening and taking back our country and it is American pride that has driven the very rare 'A+' rating for the brand new Top Gun film."
Conservatives claimed Top Gun: Maverick's $1.4 billion box office haul is due in large part to its purported patriotic themes and not 80s nostalgia and Cruz's box-office draw.
Fox News contributor Clay Travis declared:
"The vast majority of Americans are absolutely desperate to celebrate our country."
Whether DeSantis can parlay any of Top Gun's success into votes remains to be seen.