The best political ad of 2012 may have already aired -- during Sunday's Super Bowl.

Only it wasn't for a candidate, or a cause, but a car company: Chrysler.

"It's Halftime in America" defined the themes of the election better than the candidates have.

"It's halftime," narrator Clint Eastwood begins. "Both teams are in their locker room discussing what they can do to win the game in the second half. It's halftime in America, too. People are out of work, and they're hurting. And they're all wondering what they're going to do to make a comeback. And we're all scared, because this isn't a game."

It certainly wasn't for Detroit, said Eastwood. "They almost lost everything. But we all pulled together, now Motor City is fighting again."

This "all" then becomes the focus of the spot, which references "times when we didn't understand each other. It seems like we've lost our heart at times. When the fog of division, discord and blame made it hard to see what lies ahead."

Clint's gritty verbiage about our arguments is amplified by visceral visuals: A shouting talking head on cable news, and protesters in front of what could pass as Madison, Wis., appear on screen. But then they recede, replaced by noble scenes of America's industrial might and its real engine: its workers.

"How do we come from behind?" the spot continues. "How do we come together? And, how do we win? Detroit's showing us it can be done. And what's true about them is true about all of us. This country can't be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again, and when we do, the world is going to hear the roar of our engines. Yeah, it's halftime America. And, our second half is about to begin," ends Eastwood, channeling the boxing coach he played in his Oscar-winning "Million Dollar Baby."

The ad plays like a political Rorschach test. Republicans might like that Eastwood, a conservative, pushes for a restart with the kind of speech they wish GOP candidates would deliver. Democrats may like Eastwood using the bailed-out auto industry to exemplify the country's comeback, and may conflate "second half" with second term.

Here's one thing both might agree on: More candidates should follow Ronald Reagan and have Madison Avenue -- not the Beltway -- create their campaign ads.


John Rash is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist.