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10 Outrageous Attack Ads: Bain, Burning Money & More (Videos)

From a Bain tearjerker to Romney’s burning money, the worst campaign spots out there. By Jesse Singal.

Romney’s “Declared War” Accusation

Man the ramparts! Obama has declared war on your religion! That’s what the Romney complaint is claiming, at least, in its recent ad—a reference to a showdown between social conservatives and the administration over the Affordable Care Act’s coverage of birth control that was resolved via a compromise back in February.

Priorities USA’s Bain Ad

It’s a tearjerker narrated by a widowed former steelworker who was laid off after Bain acquired the plant where he worked, eventually closing it. After losing his job and health insurance, his wife was diagnosed with and quickly succumbed to cancer. Problem is, the ad is pretty misleading in many key ways.

“Gutting” Welfare Reform

This week, Romney’s campaign accused President Obama of eliminating the “welfare to work” requirement instituted by the bipartisan overhaul taken up by Congress and President Bill Clinton in 1996. Surprise: it’s a bit more complicated than that. It’s all pretty retro—a throwback to the 1980s and '90s, when “welfare queens” were all the rage and race-baiting was less subtle than it is today.

Stimulus, Schmimulus

You’d think a candidate with as much of a Mr. Moneybags image problem as Romney would know better than to release a campaign ad featuring money going up in flames. And that’s exactly what he did in this spot, which accuses Obama’s stimulus funds of going to wasteful, politically connected recipients like the failed solar-power company Solyndra.

¡Soy Mitt Romney!

Much has been written about the GOP’s desperate need, given the country’s demographic trends, to reach out to Latinos and sand down its anti-immigrant edges. That’s what Romney attempts to do in this ad, narrated in Spanish by his son Craig. Romney himself pops up at the end to explain “I’m Mitt Romney,” also in Spanish, but in a much less impressive accent.

Santorum’s Campy “Rombo” Ad

This one gets major points for creativity. “Rombo,” the incarnation of all of Mitt Romney’s meanest, mud-slingiest tendencies, makes his way through a warehouse with a paintball gun, shooting (and badly missing) mud-colored paint at cardboard cutouts of Santorum. Santorum may have avoided Rombo’s rampage, but that couldn’t save him from the real-life Romney in the primaries.

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Herman Cain’s Block Party

In this … memorable ad from Herman Cain, the camera lingers awkwardly on his chief of staff, Mark Block, zooming and cutting erratically as he talks about the virtue of his boss. It feels vaguely like the start of a snuff film. “America’s never seen a candidate like Herman Cain,” Block says. True, and it had also never seen an ad like this one.

Rick Perry Does Not Like the Gays

What campaign would be complete without some ugly religious bigotry? Rick Perry provides it in style, stalking a patch of verdant countryside in his autumn best while he explains, “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that theres’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.” Somehow this strikingly intelligent, nuanced appeal to the American people failed, and Perry was unable to grab the nomination.

Ron Paul! Ron Paul! Ron Paul!

Sure, these Ron Paul supporters seem relatively buttoned-down, but still … Ron Paul! Crazy ideas! Revolution! A trillion-dollar budget cut in his first year! We miss Ron Paul. Any chance we can bring him back for the rest of this comparatively drab campaign?

Gravel’s Oldie But Goodie

It’s not from this year, but Mike Gravel’s instant-classic, Oscar-nominated (not really) avant-garde ad from the 2008 Democratic primary deserves to be on any list like this. First he stares at the screen. Then he throws a rock in a pond. Then he walks away. That’s it. Seriously. It takes almost three minutes for this plot to unspool itself, or six times the length of a standard campaign TV spot. “I realized the meaning of life after watching this,” enthused one recent commenter. Us too, 1337snake888. Us too.