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Let’s talk about that David McCormick ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ Super Bowl ad

The Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate is trying to do just enough to tell Trump voters he’s one of them — while leaving wiggle room for later.

Dave McCormick, a Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate.
Dave McCormick, a Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate.Read moreMatt Rourke / AP

You may have heard about David McCormick’s Super Bowl ad — featuring the “Let’s Go Brandon!” chant. But you probably didn’t actually see it.

The spot, which features a slogan that conservatives use as a stand-in for “F— Joe Biden” (long story) received ample hype before the big game. Fox News, the New York Post and others reported that McCormick, a Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania with deep pockets, was planning to run the ad during America’s most singular cultural event.

Left unmentioned (and probably un-leaked by the McCormick campaign) was that it ran in just a single market, Pittsburgh, with only $70,000 behind it. For comparison’s sake, you need $1 million to make a real statewide dent on TV.

It’s a common strategy, especially around the Super Bowl: do something splashy that gets free attention rather than spending your own money. It worked for McCormick, winning headlines in conservative outlets where the ad is likely to be a hit. It also shows how hard McCormick — an ex-hedge fund CEO who worked in the George W. Bush administration — is trying to appeal to former President Donald Trump (who loves the chant) and his supporters.

But it also suggests that maybe it’s not a natural fit.

» READ MORE: David McCormick’s longtime praise for China and trade could bite his Pa. Senate run

McCormick doesn’t actually use the phrase himself, or even appear in the ad. Instead “Let’s go Brandon” echoes in faceless chants as the ad displays more conventional criticisms of Biden on subjects like inflation, Afghanistan, and crime.

“The issues we are facing are so much bigger than ‘Brandon,’” McCormick said in a statement. ”These problems were self-inflicted by Joe Biden and the extreme policies of the left.”

(GOP rival Mehmet Oz came back with a post Monday spoofing the “Brandon” ad by tacking on video of McCormick once praising Biden’s “tone”).

While McCormick clearly wanted conservative news consumers to know — or think — he was embracing the phrase, he also didn’t push far and wide with an appeal that some voters may find offensive, or just odd. (It’s a very online crowd that even knows what the chant means).

His campaign noted that McCormick also shared the ad on his social media, but it looks like he’s trying to do just enough to tell Trump voters he’s one of them — while leaving wiggle room for later.

Clout provides often irreverent news and analysis about people, power, and politics.