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Weekly Open Thread: Worst Political Ads Ever?

by: James L.

Fri Oct 12, 2007 at 11:14 PM EDT

Let's try something different this week.  We've all endured a constant drubbing of political TV ads for most of our lives.  Most of them suffer from their unremarkable sameness: cookie cutter ads dealing with issues and personalities in wholly superficial and misleading ways.  Of course, what can you expect in 30 to 60 seconds?

Still, I think we all have an idea of what makes an ad a total dud.  In the comments, please post links (YouTube preferred) to political ads by candidates, parties, or independent groups that you consider to be especially awful.

To get the ball rolling, I'll kick things off with this 2006 ad by LA-01 Democratic challenger Stacey Tallitsch.  The YouTube link implies that this thing actually made it onto the airwaves ("broadcast version"), but I have my doubts.

Apparently only 4% of LA-01 voters "had enough". Ouch.

And who could forget this gem by wingnut hero Vernon Robinson?

Got anything worse?  And when I say "worst", I do not mean ads that advocate for bad causes/bad candidates (Bush, Mark Foley, etc).  I mean ads with questionable marketing sense.  Have at it--and do not let party affiliation inhibit you.

James L. :: Weekly Open Thread: Worst Political Ads Ever?
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Tough to Choose...
There are scores of very effective GOP smear ads that pop into my head, some which were fiendishly clever and even humorous, and others which were insulting and backfired.  One that fit both categories was last year's ad with the mob thug on his cell phone lamenting the fact that New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez was under criminal investigation.  Here in the Midwest, I thought it was hilarious, but apparently Italian-Americans in New Jersey weren't laughing and found the ad to feed into stereotypes.

But if I have to boil it down to merely ineffective and incompetent ads, I think I'd clump the collective work of MN-01 Republican incumbent Gil Gutknecht last year.  Every shred of evidence confirmed he was gonna be in for a helluva fight against Tim Walz, and that he could see it coming, yet Gutknecht was content to run a month's worth of weary, canned ads.  Most of these ads were about tax cuts, and Gutknecht didn't address the audience in a single one of them outside of his "I approved this message" tagline. 

Lamer yet was Gutknecht's 11th hour radio ad in which he was "setting the record straight" in response to a Walz TV ad that featured a goofy looking photo of Gutknecht.  The G-man told the audience that the photo from the ad was taken at a charity cancer auction in which Gutknecht was the auctioneer.  The moral of the story in the Gutknecht ad:  "no good deed goes unpunished".  Uh, sure Gil.  In retrospect, I'm convinced this guy was trying to lose last year.

I don't know how to imbed youtube clips

This is for Russ Potts, a moderate Republican who ran as an Independent for Governor in '05 against Tim Kaine and Jerry Kilgore. After deciding I wasn't voting for Kilgore, I briefly thought about voting for Potts. This ad changed my mind.

[ Parent ]
Well, I'm trying to decide which was worse, the Louisnana dancer or the pot banging, it's really close

Politics and Other Random Topics

24, Male, Democrat, NM-01, Chairman of the Atheist Caucus, and Majority Leader of the "Going to Hell" caucus!

[ Parent ]
Louisiana, not Louisnana

Politics and Other Random Topics

24, Male, Democrat, NM-01, Chairman of the Atheist Caucus, and Majority Leader of the "Going to Hell" caucus!

[ Parent ]
And the Award for Worst use of Kitchenware in an ad goes too...
Independent Republican Russ Potts. Seriously, at least other politicians can use their silly name a little better then that. Rep. Antony Weiner comes to mind here.

progressive, NY-8 (home), PA-7 (college)

[ Parent ]
Is there a "Give us Weiner" ad out there?
that would be pretty funny.

Delaware Liberal - biggest and best blog in Delaware.

[ Parent ]
Might've won
if only he went with "Fingernails on blackboard" instead.

[ Parent ]
Mama's boy
This is an ad that consists mainly of non sequiturs, with a lot of lies as well. But that isn't what makes it so weird.

The weird part is that the basic premise is that Bob Corker is a wussy crybaby mama's boy, and he approves this message.

Wow, you know I was making a big deal of the fact that Harold Ford came within 3 points of beating Corker, but with ads like that, I have to say, how the hell did Ford NOT beat Corker...

Politics and Other Random Topics

24, Male, Democrat, NM-01, Chairman of the Atheist Caucus, and Majority Leader of the "Going to Hell" caucus!

[ Parent ]
"We've gotta be tough on airplanes."
What does that even MEAN?

[ Parent ]
Re: "We've gotta be tough on airplanes."
Fifty percent.

[ Parent ]
Had Enough
the annoyingly memorable song was actually made into internet ads for like two dozen candidates. But I don't know if any of them actually tried to put the ad on TV.

Here's one of those ads:

Whoever came up with that theme
deserves to die, slowly and VERY painfully...

Politics and Other Random Topics

24, Male, Democrat, NM-01, Chairman of the Atheist Caucus, and Majority Leader of the "Going to Hell" caucus!

[ Parent ]
Have You Had Enough?
Written by guys from the Squirrel Nut Zippers, with lead vocals by Rickie Lee Jones.

[ Parent ]
I Am Loving That One... I'll have that damn jingle stuck in my head as I try to sleep.

[ Parent ]
Another Bad One....
....was brought to us courtesy of the North Carolina Republican Party back in 1998, a year that brought us some particularly ridiculous ads disproportionately from Republicans.  It featured the "Republican town" of Mayberry, NC, and explained to us that Andy Taylor would have been a Republican, as would Barney Fife, Aunt Bea, Floyd the Barber, etc.  The only Mayberry resident who would be a Democrat would be Otis.  Unfortunately, I can't find the ad on You Tube, but given that John Edwards beat an incumbent that year, it couldn't have worked too well.

Well, I found this
Andy Griffith was recording messages for Democratic state senate candidates.. inspiring these bits of genius.

Bob Shaw of Greensboro, the Senate minority leader, says he advised Mac Butner, Phillips' Republican challenger, to run ads telling voters just who the people of Mayberry would vote for.

"If it were me, I'd say Sheriff Andy Taylor was a conservative Republican and would vote for me," Shaw said. "So would Aunt Bea and Barney. Even little Opie was a Republican. There were no liberal Democrats in Mayberry - everybody would vote Republican except Otis."

But Butner's answer to Andy Taylor is Gerald Hege, Davidson County's tough-guy sheriff.

"We have a real sheriff doing radio ads - Gerald Hege," said Butner, a Realtor from Salisbury. "We don't have a Hollywood play-actor sheriff. We have the real thing. We don't need a Hollywood actor with Hollywood-actor values. Andy Griffith has the same values as Bill Clinton. I think it's a crime when the Democratic Party can sit there and talk about education, and we're still near the bottom in education when they've been in control all these years."

Butner lost 55/45

[ Parent ]
From Texas

That was an ad from former State Rep. Martha Wong (R) who went on to lose to State Rep. Ellen Cohen (D) last year.

That one wins
"The tax lady," ripping off the Church Lady with an ad so anti-Canadian it makes my brain hemorrhage.

[ Parent ]
Nancy Worley in 2006...
These ads were for Democrat Nancy Worley who lost re-election in 2006 for Alabama Secretary of State....

this is listed as The Worst Made Ad Ever?

Incumbent Nancy Johnson vs Chris Murphy, CT-05... Johnson got clobbered. Nutmeggers did not appreciate the smear, clearly suggested by folks from away.

Actually I think this ad was miserably offending to just about everybody

[ Parent ]
Cited as the reason she got creamed
Absolutely the singular worst attack ad ever. Period. Worst advertising campaign ever by the Johnson campaign.

progressive, NY-8 (home), PA-7 (college)

[ Parent ]
This ad just sucks.  On the level of that stupid jingle posted earlier.

party: Democratic, ideology: moderate, district: CT-01

[ Parent ]
I'd never really understood how Johnson was defeated so badly
So yeah, thank's for clearing that one up.  This is a trainwreck.

22, Democrat, AZ-01
Peace. Love. Gabby.

[ Parent ]
This ad doesn't look all that bad.

party: Democratic, ideology: moderate, district: CT-01

[ Parent ]
I love how the background music tries to make the mid-70s old lady Johnson seem tough. And the drug dealer ad was so lame I couldn't believe it was actually from a veteran lawmaker every time I saw it (which was about once every 20 minutes at one point).

Anyone remember the terrible "video game" ad Johnson had out, that looked and sounded like a sega saturn game. I think I only saw it once or twice on tv, mostly because it was just laughably bad.

[ Parent ]
You have to find a YouTube link.
Because I am intrigued.

[ Parent ]
Six words for you:


50,000 volts!

A ridiculous NRCC ad to help protect the loathsome Steve Chabot.

Love the gothic fonts
Gives a whole "death metal" vibe to the "bad" judgment.

[ Parent ]
If you asked this question in Nebraska...
...this would be the unanimous response:

Wow. What a dud.
We're getting some real gems here.  Keep 'em coming.

[ Parent ]
I'd feel ashamed to say my name and approve this message if I were running.  The ad's kinda ridiculous (like the kind of stuff that comes from interest groups, not from serious candidates), but Ricketts's serious statement at the end just makes it all the more "WTF" due to the wacky juxtapositional contrast between the statement and the ad itself.

Now remind me who Pete Ricketts is again?

party: Democratic, ideology: moderate, district: CT-01

[ Parent ]
Pete Ricketts
is the son of the founder of Ameritrade, who apparently got bored at work and decided to run for Senate in 2006.  He spent $12 million of his family fortune for the honor of losing 64-36 against Nelson, ultimately walking away with only 57% of *Republican* support (

This was quite possibly the most obnoxious campaign in the history of the world.  Do you have any idea how many turkey ads $12 million will buy you in Nebraska?  The worst was a last minute "endorsement" by GWB that showed up on radio a day or two before the election.  I really wish I could find a copy, it was the worst splicing job you've ever heard, constructing a passionate endorsement from a generic stump speech that barely mentioned Ricketts at all (four times, in the ad, Bush told us to "vote Pete Ricketts for the United States Senate".  This phrase never once appeared in his actual speech at Grand Island).

Here's another classic:

[ Parent ]
It's no small wonder...
...that he "changed course" with ads like this one, pleading for viewers not to tune him out:

[ Parent ]
"Sick of political ads?"
"Well, I'm sick of buying 'em!"

I was never really clear on the appeal of that argument.

[ Parent ]
"I'm sick of buying (political ads)"
Ok then, I won't vote for you, then you don't have to worry about buying more ads in another election!

[ Parent ]
this one wins
The others I could sit through... not this one.

[ Parent ]
Glad that nobody forgot about this one.

It's the stuff of legend.

[ Parent ]
The puppet has a halo!
It's so bizarre; if you're going to rip off the puppet, the least you could do is have it talk.

[ Parent ]
Best Part
That is 1 of 6 puppet ads. See if you can youtube them all!

26, Male, Democrat, TX-26

[ Parent ]

party: Democratic, ideology: moderate, district: CT-01

[ Parent ]
Here's a really bad one from the presidential race.
I disagree.
I actually think this is rather well done.  Apart from the slightly laughable "breathed too deeply" line, the rest of it is solid, and especially nice is the transition from the red/yellow color scheme to the blue color scheme as Romney talks about cleaning up the water.

party: Democratic, ideology: moderate, district: CT-01

[ Parent ]
$ for art, not for war!
I've been looking for an ad that ran in the Chicago media market for the 2006 cycle. It is an attack ad which says something to the effect of:

"Candidate X wants to take money away from the military AND Candidate X wants to give more money to the arts."

For the life of me I do not remember who made this ad or who it is attacking. Can anyone help me out?

If someone can find a youtube of it I would offer it as my example of a ridiculous, over the top, yet oddly utopian ad.

Deutsch Attack Ads
For the 2004 Florida Democratic Senatorial Primary I remember the Deutsch attack ads against Betty Castor's handling of the terrorists at USF. I can't find a video of the ad, but I just remember the screen would go black and a marker indicated something about Betty Castor. They were really pathetic ads for sure. The first time I saw them I was thinking that was a brilliant way to ruin any chance he had of winning the Democratic primary and he really did sink after them. Anyone else remember them?

I've searched a bit for the ad, but even on Deutsch's 2004 campaign site, there is no video for this one, just a few of the others.

Past coverage
Here's a link to past coverage on the ad from dailykos.

[ Parent ]
Script of Ad
I still can't find a video, but I found the script via SPTimes: http://www.sptimes.c...

"Betty Castor didn't speak out about terrorist professor Sami Al-Arian when she was USF president," says the voice of a woman in the ad, interrupted by another woman saying, "Shhhhh."

"Said she didn't have one iota of information but the FBI told her," the voice says before another "Shhhhh," adding, "Al-Arian was calling the '93 World Trade Center bombers."

It ends with the woman saying: "Can we talk about finding a candidate who can win?"

Also interesting to note if you read down the SPTimes article, Mark Penn was a campaign consultant for Peter Deutsch. He sure didn't win that one.

[ Parent ]
On a happier note
Here's the best ad from the 2004 cycle. Okay, it's a parody, but it's a damn good one.

Pleasure Boat Captains for Truth

PA-06: Lois Murphy
In a toss-up race, Murphy's most-aired ad (sadly not on YouTube) centered on a bland, laundry-list recitation of "culture of corruption" cliches, and did not mention Iraq once.  But the genius touch was Murphy's delivery of the buzz phrase "What's going on down there?" (re: D.C.), as she simultaneously appeared to direct her eyes and her hands to her crotch.

With the best Democratic midterm wave in at least a generation, and with Ed Rendell and Bob Casey landsliding at the top of the ticket (which no doubt aided Patrick Murphy and Jason Altmire to major upset victories), Murphy went from 51-49 in '04 to 50.7-49.3 in '06.

I thought this was godawful
until I saw some of the doozies posted here, like the one at the top. But any collection of "bad ads" has to include the infamous "helicopter ad", where a candidate for governor of Florida decides that he needs an artificial windstorm as a backdrop to talk about hurricane insurance.

That is laughably bad.  Thank you!

[ Parent ]
In Colorado last year, this was notorious
It's not for a candidate, but rather urging a vote against Constitutional Amendment 42 which would raise the minimum wage in Colorado. (It passed by a large margin.)

This one features Moses and God (!) criticizing it and was all over the airwaves.

Then there's this one, inspired by the HeadOn commercials. It features a cheese grater on a toilet paper roll, with a woman repeating, "42 will GRATE on you." It was so annoying that it was rarely shown, instead getting press just for its ridiculousness.

What the...
Why in the name of all that is left and just would someone develop an ad based on, what I consider to be, the most annoying commercial on the air. That and the creepy Burger King. Why isn't HE--or a lookalike--in one of these ads? It's better than giving him his own movie (which, I'm sad to say, is actually happening).

[ Parent ]
Where would the "Choose Your Canada" ads rank?
Although the military ad appearently went over badly

"Stephen Harper actually announced he wants to increase military presence in our cities. Canadian cities. Soldiers with guns. In our cities. In Canada. We did not make this up"

No one's mentioned last year's Ohio Senate race
Two ads helped Mikey DeWhiny become Ohio's "former" senator.

Mikey fired his first shot in the early summer with his "Sherrod Brown loves terrorists" ad. Ok, that's pretty boilerplate even the shot of the 19 9-11 terrorists which was followed by a shot of Brown - straight out of the Saxby Chambliss playbook. But what other idiot Photoshopped flames and moke into a picture of the World Trade Center to make it look more dramatic?

Thus began Mikey's loosened grasp on that seat. His downhill slide concluded in equally absurd fashion with a frontal attack on the fact that 20 years ago when Brown was Secretary of State of Ohio, someone in his office was busted - for pot. Ooooooooooh scary! Mikey ran commercials with a hatchet-faced woman who said she was a narc recounting this horrifying episode and concluding "And Sherod Brown not only didn't fire him - he promoted him!"

The failure of this ad to turn the tide back in Mikey's favour sparked one of the most memorable moments of that campaign when, during a debate, he said that someone in Brown's office had a "marijuana-laced banana." What was Mikey smoking? Never mind; his Senate career over, he's moved on to bigger and better things - managing John McCain's Ohio campaign.

The guy knows how to pick losers.

I remember that ad
Guess the photoshopped flames were prophetic, weren't they?

For my money, the best ad from that race was the "More We Get Together" ad with Mikey and Georgie. God, that ad made my sides hurt!

[ Parent ]
I can't believe this!
How has no one yet cited the infamous blonde bimbo ad?

"Harold!  Call me!"  <-- WIN

party: Democratic, ideology: moderate, district: CT-01

But the sad thing is
that the ad may have actually worked.  Ford was having other problems, but it's around this time that he started to lose his grip on the race.
This was a pretty funny satire of it, but needless to say if it had actually aired on tv it would belong in this thread:

22, Democrat, AZ-01
Peace. Love. Gabby.

[ Parent ]
Registered To Post This...
This ad basically sums up the amount of substance in Michael Steele's 2006 Senate campaign:

The DSCC had a brilliant response ad:

I love how
Steele knew that the only way he was going to win was to confuse more apathetic or unaware voters into thinking that he was a Democrat.  It's no coincidence that his entire ad, right down to his name at the beginning, is covered in blue.  Only his tie is red, but even his undershirt is blue!

22, Democrat, AZ-01
Peace. Love. Gabby.

[ Parent ]
How did I forget this ad?

Starting off an ad with "I was really fat" is probably not a good idea..

Robert Kruger Texas Senator
Does any one know where to find robert'bob" Kruegers political add for the 1993 94 election texas senate i was told by political science teacher it was th worst add in history and they thought it was gonna be so good they even had an add advertising for the adds one time release  

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