14 Most Vicious Attack Ads
The Taxman Cometh
Christine O’Donnell (R) hit Chris Coons (D) with this doozy of an attack ad in their increasingly ugly Senate race in Delaware. In an impressive alley-oop, O’Donnell combines a viral-ready remix of the already-viral “ Bed Intruder” video.
Rory, Son of Harry
The surprisingly funny grownups over at the Republican Governors Association produced this satirical stab at Nevada gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid (D), son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Rory had opted to run under only his first name, in a poorly veiled attempt at distancing himself from his embattled dad, who is struggling to hold on to his Senate seat. Way to go, shockingly-with-it Repub Govs!
Hot Air: Attack of the Giant Floating Head
In this ad, destined to be a classic of the genre, California incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D) head swells to an enormous size and hovers above the landscape, terrorizing innocents until “a 5-foot-6-inch fireball”—Carly Fiorina (R)—swoops in to save the day. This is just one of Fiorina’s many creative pieces of campaign propaganda this year. See also: Demon Sheep.
My Opponent Is a Sea Monster!
In his unsuccessful bid to take out John McCain in Arizona’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate, J.D. Hayworth repurposed this oldie-but-goodie car commercial from Toyota’s Vios line. The parallel he’s going for doesn’t really work, but it’s nice to see the viral video-era equivalent of a throwback ad.
The Real World: Special Interests
In this year’s Democratic Senate primary in Colorado, Andrew Romanoff and Michael Bennet stopped being polite and started getting real. Romanoff’s hidden cameras “caught” this suspiciously balanced assortment of industry titans discussing how they have Bennet in their back pockets. Lessons learned: Bankers drink beer, insurance guys drink liquor, and oilmen are beer-and-a-shot frat boys with bizarre reverse-Wolverine beards.
Sue Lowden brought the weird with her attack on Sharron Angle in the Nevada Republican Senate primary, which Angle ultimately won. In this true but utterly misleading ad, Lowden claimed that Angle supported legislation to give massages to prisoners and turn prisons into, basically, spas. Then she conflated Angle’s position with support for the Church of Scientology. OK, then! (Bonus points if you can spot the Tom Cruise cameo.)
No Holds Barred
Yeesh. This attack from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Scott DesJarlais (R)—in his neck-and-neck battle in the Tennessee 4th with incumbent Rep. Lincoln Davis (D)—is about as personal as it gets. Totally devoid of any mention of the proverbial “issues,” the ad features DesJarlais looking quite the felon, and goes on to air some seriously dirty laundry in the public square. But seriously, though: He held a gun in his mouth for three hours? Didn’t that hurt his teeth after a while?
Big Guns Ben
This ad from dynasty kid Ben Quayle, in his run for Congress in the Arizona 3rd, is slightly cringe-inducing. There are plenty of substantive reasons candidates take Obama’s policies to task. But Quayle’s ad—so full of pencil-neck bravado, conflating the president and “tax cartels” with the very serious and very deadly drug cartels terrorizing Mexico—might make a sensible viewer run the other way.
In the political pantheon of all things Over the Line, this deserves a fast track to somewhere near the top. Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson (FL-8) ran this ad against his Republican opponent, Dan Webster. As if equating the opposition with the Taliban isn’t outrageous enough, the ad is an outright lie.
Not My Deep Fried Bacon!
As negative ads go, this has to be the most endearing of the season. Republican Tea Party Princess Michele Bachmann ran it against her Democratic opponent, Tarryl Clark, in a bid to keep her seat in the Minnesota 6th. Coastal Americans underestimate the importance of state-fair season at their own risk. At their even greater risk, they underestimate the seriousness of the beer and corndog tax debate.
In Orleans Parish, Louisiana, the red-hot contest between nine-term incumbent Dr. Frank Minyard and challenger, Dr. Dwight McKenna, for the position of parish coroner—yes, coroner—produced one of the strangest attack ads in memory.
Accusing your opponent of organ trafficking is one thing. Doing so in a skit parodying a gothic novel—complete with costumes, fake blood, and a faux (we hope!) liver—is something else altogether.
Republibots in Disguise
This ad, from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee against Republican incumbent Rep. Mark Kirk in the Illinois 10th, doesn’t warrant much explanation. Who doesn’t love seeing a politician morph into a transformer thrashing his way through the Capitol?
Why Aqua Buddha?
No attack ad this season came to dominate the news cycle, and define the campaign, more than the infamous Aqua Buddha ad Democrat Jack Conway ran against Republican lightning rod Rand Paul in the Kentucky Senate race. Conway never comes right out and says Rand Paul is a God-hating druid; he merely innocently asks, repeatedly, why Paul hates God. Why all the fuss? Paul responded with an ad of his own, proving his own religious bona fides with such old-timey political campaign standards as a steeple, a fishing pole, and accusations of bearing false witness.
Bold. Very Bold.
OK, this isn’t exactly an American attack ad. But it is exactly the single best attack ad you have ever seen in your life. Really. This gem cuts right through the morass and gets to the point. It’s an attack on Sam Katz, running for reelection for mayor of Winnipeg, Canada. And it involves kicking a child in the face.