Republican advert: Women voters are blushing brides

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Media caption"Brittany" loves the Republican candidate dress

The College Republican National Committee is trying to convince young women to vote conservative by comparing candidates to stylish wedding dresses.

This is not a joke.

In the minute-long internet adverts, a young blonde woman named Brittany stands in a bridal store weighing which dress (er, candidate) to choose. The million-dollar campaign is running in 16 states and targeting six competitive governor elections

The spot, titled Say Yes to the Candidate, is a play on a long-running US cable television reality show, Say Yes to the Dress, in which women deal with the trials and tribulations of wedding-dress shopping.

Hence in Florida, Brittany describes Republican Governor Rick Scott as "the trusted brand" with "new ideas that don't break your budget".

"The Rick Scott is perfect," she says.

The bride's screechy liberal mother, however, has other ideas. She likes the Democrat: "It's expensive and a little outdated, but I know best."

Brittany's eyes widen in horror.

A store clerk notes that the Democrat comes with "additional costs", as she hands the bride-to-be a puffy veil, a garish sash and a long string of pearls.

"There's higher taxes, double-digit unemployment and increased government spending," she says of the Democratic candidate in Michigan.

"We cannot let her walk out of the voting booth like that," one of Brittany's friends says.

Image copyright College Republican National Committee
Image caption Brittany's mum likes the Democrat and says she knows best

The advert ends with Brittany confronting her mother.

"Mom, this is my decision," she says, adding that she sees a better future with the Republican candidate. (At this point it almost seems like the Republican is the groom, not the dress, but maybe the College Republicans thought that would be a bit too blunt.)

Everyone but the mum celebrates Brittany's choice by popping Champagne.

With both the female and the youth vote trending Democratic in recent elections, Republicans have been trying to find a way to connect with these key demographic segments.

Critics on the left, however, think the strategy is going to backfire. Time magazine calls the spot the most sexist Republican advert of the year.

"At this point, it's hard not to wonder if the people being hired to do outreach to women on behalf of Republican candidates aren't all a bunch of Democratic moles," quips Slate's Amanda Marcotte.

The segments pander to "presumably dumb millennial women" by "recasting tired tropes in a political context," writes New York magazine's Jessica Roy.

The Guardian's Jessica Valenti compares Republicans to a "love-struck guy who can't take the hint" that young women just aren't into them.

"It's sort of difficult to be outraged while you're busy laughing at how pathetic these Republican get-out-the-vote ads have become," she writes.

College Republican National Committee president Alex Smith defended the adverts, saying that she and the committee's four other female staff members came up with the idea.

"How do you reach the generation that has their earbuds in and their minds turned off to traditional advertising?" she tells the Wall Street Journal. "It's our goal to start the conversation by presenting ourselves in a culturally relevant way."

She tells Politico that the adverts were tested in Florida and North Carolina and received positive responses.

There's risk in this sort of mass-produced, one-size-fits-all-campaigns strategy, however. As the Denver Post's Joey Bunch notes, in Colorado the ad mispronounces the name of Republican candidate Bob Beauprez.

"It's BOW-pray, not BOO-pray, kids," he writes.

He says the advert also didn't escape the notice of the College Democrats of America. On Wednesday they sent out a statement thanking their ideological counterparts for showing America "just how out-of-touch Republicans are with young people".

"While Democrats are fighting to make sure young women can afford a good education, have access to healthcare including affordable birth control, get paid equally and much more, Republicans are treating women as if all they care about are dresses and reality shows," they write.

On Thursday conservative journalist Tucker Carlson suggested that maybe it'd be better if the undecided young women targeted by Republicans with these adverts just didn't vote.

Now there's a winning strategy.