These ads subtract.
Politico asked campaign operatives on both sides to nominate their favorite commercials of the cycle — and by favorite, we mean the most memorably bad.
This was a bipartisan exercise. Offered anonymity, some Democrats nominated Democratic ads and some Republicans chose GOP ads.
Ineptitude, as we discovered, knows no party.
Ours was no exercise in truth squadding. We weren’t looking for ads that were unfair, fact-flouting, insensitive or commercials that otherwise injured our civil society. We asked for those that were poorly executed, dopey, misguided or just plain weird.
Narrowing the list to 10 wasn’t easy.
Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Diane Benson (D-Alaska) “Experience.” Benson, a Democrat running for Alaska’s at-large seat, made a handful of curious spots, so choosing one was difficult.
“Experience,” gets the nod for its footage – perhaps a first in political history — of the candidate scooping up dog poop in her backyard. We’re still not sure what she was trying to say — maybe she was trying to secure the dog vote. Then again, we don’t pretend to understand Alaska politics.
2. Colleen Callahan (D-Ill.) “Daisy.” LBJ had the good sense to run his infamous “Daisy” ad — the one where a little girl picking petals off a flower is annihilated by a nuclear explosion — once. Here’s Democrat Colleen Callahan suggesting Daisy could get wiped out by her opponent’s support of nuke sales to Taiwan. Added bonus: her easy-listening campaign jingle.
3. Jim Slattery (D-Kan.) “Hosed.” We’re not sure what it is about candidates and bodily waste this cycle. But Slattery’s ad makes the list for its suggestion — and gag-inducing dramatization — of voters getting whizzed on. The end of the ad makes clear they’re only being doused in gasoline. Slattery’s running against Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts — Is it a coincidence that the man holding the hose looks like Roberts?
4. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) “Big, Bad John.” After the ad went viral, Cornyn said, “My staff convinced me that it would be a good idea… Maybe I need a new staff.” Yeah, maybe.
5. Carl Mumpower (R-N.C.) “Glasses.” Mumpower, an eerily sedate self-described “independent” Republican, can’t seem to decide if he wants his glasses on or off. It’s mesmerizing.
6. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) “I’m sorry.” This ad — like Benson’s — was nominated by political operatives on both sides of the aisle. The Florida Republican apologizes for going on a junket to Scotland paid for by “a corrupt lobbyist,” Jack Abramoff. “Public service is about being honest, even when you make a mistake,” Feeney earnestly tells his constituents. But is he really sorry — or just sorry he got busted? “I embarrassed myself, embarrassed you, and for that I’m sorry,” he intones. We’ll find out Nov. 4 if his constituents accepted the mea culpa.
7. Andy Harris (R-Md.) “Recycler.” This one makes it on sheer laziness. We can accept the occasional campaign volunteer serving as the “man on the street” for his or her candidate. But Harris took it to a new level – recycling the same exact people — and using the same exact footage — to attack both his primary opponent Rep. Wayne Gilchrest and his general election opponent, Frank Kratovil. The cherry is the ad’s title: “What people are saying about Frank Kratovil.” “Just too liberal,” says one guy in a warehouse. “He is a big spender,” says a woman in a grocery store. Both clips are from the Gilchrest ad.
Andy Harris on Gilchrest and Kratovil
8. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) “Damp.&rdqu; The ad begins with Cassidy’s wife pull-starting a generator – for no obvious reason — and yelling, “Okay, Bill!” Cassidy then begins an anti-earmark, drill-now spiel in the rain, under an umbrella, again with no explanation. Maybe it had something to do with Katrina. The ad – the candidate’s first – has been taken down from the campaign’s YouTube page. But we dug it back up.
9. Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) “Workers.” State of the art ad – during the Ford administration. The awkward shoulder pat in the beginning, Kanjorski’s slow-mo spin toward the camera and the scripted testimonials can’t be moving too many swing voters to do anything more than snicker.
10. Harri Anne Smith (R-Ala.) “Shabby Sheikh.” This ad makes the list for its jarring shift from an Alabama grocery store to Middle Eastern oil fields, along with the line, “It’s about time those billionaire Middle Eastern sheiks show us some gratitude by lowering their oil prices.”
The Best ad of the season.
All 2:51 of it.