"Are you sure this is going to actually be on?" Emma asked.
"Positive," Polly said. "I got a tip from a source at the cable office. It was a very targeted buy. They’re only running for a week on basic cable."
We were in my living room, watching a show on a channel called TBS, which I’d never seen before. They were showing a re-run (Polly had to explain to me what that was) of a popular situation comedy called The Big Bang Theorem, or I think that’s what it’s called. It was about the sex lives of scientists, and I don’t understand how it got to be popular. All of the jokes seemed to be about making fun of the one tall, attractive character, who seemed to be the most intelligent of the group. I suppose the other characters were just jealous of him, which is what my mom always said when kids made fun of me when I was in elementary school.
"Okay," Polly said. "They’re going to run an ad for Hanover Hyundai, and then Campbell’s ad. It’s supposed to be up on YouTube tomorrow morning."
"I’m not sure I’m ready for this," Emma said.
"I expect to be attacked," I said. "It’s part of the process. I can’t avoid it. I don’t really want to."
"Here it comes," Polly said.
*
"I’m Mike Campbell," my opponent said, "and I approved this message."
What do we really know about Justin Trudeau-Fairchild? the narrator asked. The screen showed a shot of me from my MSNBC interview the week before. We know he’s not from Hanover County.
The screen showed a picture of my house. Justin Trudeau-Fairchild moved here from Washington in January 2016. He’d never even stepped foot in Hanover County before that. And he bought a million-dollar house just to say he lived here. And how did he afford it?
Then it switched back to the MSNBC studio, with the angry guy from Oregon yelling at me about my dad. "Can we talk about this guy’s father for a second? Charles Fairchild? Fairchild International? Wall Street tycoon?"
Then there was a picture of me, staring into the camera, but my face was red and glowing, like I was a burn victim.

This November, tell Justin Trudeau-Fairchild that a famous name and a famous father won’t get him votes in western New Jersey. Justin Trudeau-Fairchild. Wrong for Hanover County. Wrong for New Jersey.

This political advertisement paid for by Campbell for Congress.
*
"That wasn’t as bad as it could have been," Emma said.
"And it’s all true," Polly said. "That makes it harder to counter it, actually. It almost would have been better if they’d lied about you. Or made fun of you for being Canadian, although I expect that’s coming."
"Microaggression," I said.
"Don’t whine, Justin," Emma said.
"Microaggression," I repeated.
"Say it here, if you have to," Polly said. "I catch you saying that to a reporter, or out in public, and I’m going to kick your rear end."
"I just want to help make things fairer for people!" I said. "He makes it sound like I’m a bad person for moving here and wanting to help."
"We knew we were going to have to face this line of attack when we moved here," Emma said. "Relax. Polly is right; it could have been a lot worse."
"This is just the opening salvo," Polly said. "They’re showing that they’re concerned about you by running it this early. And it’s not even about policy differences. This is about as tame of a negative ad as you could want right now. If anything, it helps with name recognition."
"How can we stop the cable company from running it?" I asked.
"You can’t," Polly said. "Everyone has a right to run negative ads if they want to. First Amendment."
"Citizens United," I said. "I hope Scalia really does rot in hell."
"No," Polly said, "that had to do with… oh, never mind. Justin, you need to get hold of yourself."
"She’s right," Emma said. "This is not that big a deal."
"It is to me," I said. "You know I don’t process microaggressions very well. How do we fight this?"
"We fight back," Emma said. "Produce our own negative ad."
"Too early for that," Polly said. "Justin hasn’t even won the primary yet. Just because they’re panicking doesn’t mean we need to. We counter it by going positive."
"How do we do that?" I asked.
Polly looked thoughtful. "Maybe we try to show Justin’s playful side?"
"That’ll never work," Emma said.
"We should run on the issues," I said. "Like, you know, combating the public use of microaggressions."
"Shut up, Justin," they both said at once.
"Or the private use of microaggressions."
*
"You have got to be kidding me," I said.
It was the next morning, and I was in a kayak on the Delaware River, with a small camera crew on the bank. I was wearing a ridiculous blue windshirt and carrying a giant yellow oar.
"This is going to work, Justin," Polly said. "Just look into the camera and read the cue cards."
"Shouldn’t I have a helmet?" I asked. "I think I should have a helmet."
"Michael Dukakis had a helmet. Look what it did for him. Just relax."
"But the water is freezing," I said. "I’m freezing. And I’m afraid I’m going to tip over in this stupid kayak."
"All you have to do is keep it steady for thirty seconds," Polly said. "Are you ready?"
"No."
"He’s ready. Roll camera."
*
I am Justin T. Fairchild, I said on the television, and I approved this message.

When my wife and I moved to Hanover County, we were looking for someplace to call home. Someplace we could set down roots, and raise our family. Someplace with unparalleled outdoor recreation opportunities, like kayaking in the Delaware River. But overdevelopment and fracking are taking their toll on our pristine rural waterways. Vote for me for Congress, and I’ll fight to make sure that our water stays clean and clear.

Paid for by Justin T. Fairchild for Congress.
*
"I look like a total jerk in that kayak," I said.
"You looked very rugged," Emma said. "Outdoorsy. Masculine."
"Next, we ought to have you chopping wood or something," Polly said. "To promote renewable fuels."
"I think we should focus more on the issues," I said, "rather than the visuals."
"Heck with that," Polly said. "That commercial got you a ten-point bump in our internal polling. I think next we need to have you climb a tree, for forest awareness."
"Microaggression," I said.
*******
Next week’s episode: The State Dinner
Check out the previous installments:
Last year:
Week Forty-Nine:The True North
Week Fifty:The Garden State
This year:
Week Four:The Brain Trust
Week Six:The Snow Day

Week Seven:The Coin Flip

Week Eight:The Wicked Witch
Week Nine: The Sucker Punch