Hot Ads of the Week: Bewitched in Delaware

Christine O'Donnell ad, Oct. 4, 2010 CBS

What a week! Hot Ads ruled the week, as our favorite non-witch got on the air in Delaware and a Republican ad in West Virginia drew attention because it used hired actors from Philadelphia to pretend they were "right here in West Virginia."

What fun! Here we go:

Bewitched?

For number one, we start with Delaware's surprise GOP Tea Party candidate for Senate, Christine O'Donnell, who came out with two ads this week.

Production-wise, both are very simple. O'Donnell stands in front of a dark backdrop. She looks directly at the camera and speaks in a sincere, deliberate tone. It sounds straightforward enough, but O'Donnell's first ad of the week was not standard campaign fare.

"I'm not a witch," O'Donnell says at the top of the first ad, responding to a major dust-up that erupted in the campaign after comedian Bill Maher released a clip of O'Donnell on his show Politically Incorrect admitting that she'd "dabbled into witchcraft."

"I'm nothing you've heard. I'm you," O'Donnell says in the ad. After claiming to be "you," the ad's language gets closer to Tea Party, populist rhetoric.

"None of us are perfect, but none of us can be happy with what we see all around us," she says. "Politicians who think spending, trading favors and backroom deals are the ways to stay in office. I'll go to Washington, and do what you'd do. I'm Christine O'Donnell, and I approve this message. I'm you."

The "I'm you" theme continues in her second ad of the week, filmed the same way as the first with O'Donnell wearing the same clothes in front of the same background. She starts the second ad bragging that she "didn't go to Yale," and she "didn't inherit millions like my opponent. I'm you."

Again she turns to policy and says she will fight any tax increases while she's in Washington. Unless you went to Yale. Or inherited money. But she's you, or so she says.


Lying in Connecticut

Our second ad takes us to Connecticut, where former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon (the Republican Senate candidate) takes another hit at the state Attorney General Dick Blumenthal (the Democratic candidate) for exaggerating his military record. Candidates from across the political spectrum have been pointing fingers about lying and going negative this week, from the Texas governor's race to Nevada's Senate race, and this ad may take the cake.

"Would you lie about serving in a war?" asks the announcer, striking a dark and ominous tone. Then the ad goes to Blumenthal talking about lessons learned since he "served in Vietnam," when in reality Blumenthal was safely at home in the United States during Vietnam, though he served in the Marine Reserves."Dick Blumenthal lied. Again and again," says the announcer. "He lied about Vietnam. What else is he lying about?"

This ad does two things for McMahon. It brings back the scandal that made her a viable candidate in the first place. Plus, it uses strong language, accusing Blumenthal of flat out lying and raising questions of what else he might be lying about. The issue did not dominate this week's campaign debate with the two candidates, however.


Fake Obama

Number three takes us to Kentucky, where Republican Tea Party-backed Rand Paul is up with an ad that makes his Democratic Senate opponent, Jack Conway, appear to be too close to President Obama -- or at least an actor hired to pretend to be Mr. Obama.

The ad starts with a picture of the White House. "Jack Conway, uh, has given me a stamp of approval," says the narrator, badly impersonating President Obama. "Conway supported me for president, helped bankroll my campaign, and even fought to pass my health care plan," he says over pictures of a fake check written from Conway to Mr. Obama and a fake letter of thanks from the president to Conway for help on health care.

Meanwhile, the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" is playing mockingly in the background. Over another fake letter with Conway's name sandwiched between Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer, the narrator says, "Now, I need Conway in Washington, because I know I can count on Conway to vote for more spending and debt, bigger government and higher taxes." The fake president wields a rubber stamp with a Conway likeness and stamps down fake bills with those titles on them. Notice how the stamp is held by an African-American hand. At the end of the ad, a BlackBerry phone rings and the fake-Obama narrator says, "There he is now, Mr. Jack Conway. Now, there's a guy I can work with in Washington." At the end, a photo of Conway is dropped on a table between photos of Mr. Obama and Nancy Pelosi.


Fake West Virginians

For number four, we go to a diner in Philadelphia, where actors were hired to sit around and complain that West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin is too buddy-buddy with President Obama and should be kept in West Virginia. The ad, run by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, was quickly pulled from the air after it was discovered that the ad was a total fake -- the men in it are actors and instead of being filmed in West Virginia as they claim ("right here in West Virginia," says one man), it was actually filmed in Philadelphia. While TV ads are often filmed in television studios in other places, this one makes the list because it pretends to be West Virginia and pretends to use real West Virginians. The casting call document, obtained by CBS News, makes it clear that the folks behind the ad don't have much regard for the people of West Virginia.

The ad features two men, dressed in flannel and wearing trucker hats, sitting around a diner talking. One man says, "Obama's messing things up." After the usual GOP litany, complaining about Obamacare and the stimulus, the other man chimes in: "Joe's not bad as governor, but but when he's with Obama..." "He turns into 'Washington Joe,'" says the other, finishing the thought. "And Washington Joe does whatever Obama wants," says the second man. "We better keep Joe Manchin right here in West Virginia," says the first. "Away from Washington," says the second. "It's the only way we are going to stop Obama," says the first man.

The casting call document says the producers were going for "a 'Hicky' Blue Collar look." It suggests clothing such as: "Jeans, Work Boots, Flannel Shirt, Denim Shirt, Dickie's type jacket with t-shirt underneath, Down filled vest, John Deer [sic] hats (not brand new, preferably beat up), Trucker Hats (not brand new, preferably beat up)" and says, "These characters are from West Virginia so think coal miner/trucker looks."

It's no wonder why the ad, while it seemed to be authentic, is now seen as mocking in its presentation of real West Virginians and was quickly pulled from the air.


Get this fully-grown man wearing a suit off my back.

For number five, we get the monkey off our back. Or, we see this ad that portrays government as that monkey on our back, or as a fully-grown adult male, sometimes overweight, sometimes smoking a cigar, wearing a nice suit. This is an ad from the political action commitee of the Family Research Council, a religious-right group that is usually known for standing up against abortion and stem cell research. Now, the group is up with an ad against freshmen Democrat Rep. Tom Perriello from Virginia. The ad is cute, funny and biting -- portraying Perriello as someone who lets government into everyday life.

"Woke up one morning and it was there, big government on my back," says a man in his underwear, brushing his teeth, standing at his bathroom mirror, with a fully-grown man wearing a dark suit on his back. "It's a huge problem. Its affecting everyone," he says as he's mowing his lawn with a suited man on his back.

The ad shows the man at a doctor's office with a few government men, fully suited, examining him as he says government is "taking over our health care," and then shows g-men on the backs of women at the checkout line at the grocery store with the narrator saying, "using our money to bail out big business."

"Even our kids are in trouble," says the man, narrating video of a child trying to pull a red wagon, but breaking the handle, because a large, suited man is sitting in the wagon. Notice the jogger running behind him with another suited man on his back.

"Get government off our backs, stop Tom Perriello on election day," says the man, standing in his kitchen. And for added effect, as he tries to eat a candy bar, the suited man on his back swipes it away.

Envelope please: the winner of last week's Hot Ads of the Week was Scott McAdams, Alaska's Democratic candidate for Senate, who won with his fishing boat ad. Vote for this week's winner below!



Jill Jackson is a CBS News senior political producer. You can read more of her posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow her on Twitter.


Robert Hendin
Robert Hendin is a CBS News senior political producer. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here.

  • Robert Hendin On Twitter»

    Robert Hendin is senior producer for "Face the Nation" and a CBS News senior political producer.

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