The modern campaign commercial can be traced back to 1952, when Dwight D. Eisenhower began peppering the airwaves with a series of 20-second ads called “Eisenhower Answers America,” wherein citizens asked questions like “The Democrats have made mistakes, but aren’t their intentions good?”
Seventy-four years later, things are slightly different.
Commercials are in color, they are longer, and they are nothing short of completely insane. And the craziest part is: They may not even be about persuading voters any more.
Long gone are the days of “Daisy Girl” and “It’s Morning In America Again.” Candidates today are attempting to go viral instead of inspire—think of the modern primary ad as the political equivalent of a video of a skateboarder injuring his testicles.
Crazy ads have not proven to be an effective electoral strategy. This did not help Jeff Barth win South Dakota’s GOP primary in 2012, Herman Cain’s smoking chief of staff techno video certainly didn’t win him the Republican presidential nomination that year, and Rep. Frank Pallone inexplicably leaning on a Chevy didn’t allow him to beat Cory Booker in New Jersey’s special Democratic Senate primary in 2013.
But history has apparently not been a guiding star for the 2014’s primary candidates, who have, in their commercials, brandished deadly weapons, touted their castration credentials, and wrestled large reptiles. This is pure commercial-as-clickbait—attempts to grab attention. Swaying votes is so 1952.
Here are the 7 most WTF campaign commercials of the 2014 primary season:
Iowa’s Joni Ersnt is running in the June 3 Republican primary to fill the seat vacated by the retirement of Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.
Ernst has been endorsed by Mitt Romney and former reality television star Sarah Palin, but in the event that that’s not enough for voters, Ernst made an ad about her plans to use some unorthodox methods to get things done in D.C.
“I’m Joni Ernst,” she sings in the friendly tone of a kindergarten teacher. In her next breath, Ernst gets straight to the point: “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm, so when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork.” The ad then cuts to footage of a pig squealing.
In closing, Ernst dons the kind of smile usually reserved for toothpaste commercials as she says, “I’m Joni Ernst and I approve this message, because Washington’s full of big spenders—let’s make ’em squeal.”
Tea Party Patriot™ Dwayne Stovall was running for the U.S. Senate in Texas’s March 4 Republican primary against incumbent John Cornyn (and infamous Hot Tub Partier Steve Stockman).
Stovall released an ad intended to slam Cornyn for voting “to please a guy who looks and fights like a turtle” (that’d be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell).
Stovall, wearing denim-on-denim, sitting next to a large weapon on the back of a pickup truck, and stroking the head of a beautiful Golden Retriever like Redneck Dr. Evil, lectures Cornyn about how to vote (for Texas, duh).
The ad cuts to a picture of McConnell next to a cartoon turtle, and then to Stovall’s adorable dog, who informs him, “I like turtle soup.”
Somehow, Stovall lost the primary.
Tea Party Patriot ™ J.D. Winteregg decided to challenge Speaker of the House John Boehner in Ohio’s May 6 Republican primary.
Winterergg, an adjunct French professor with zero political experience, released a commercial called “Electile Dysfunction” which underscored both his youth and inexperience.
“If you have a Boehner lasting longer than 23 years, seek immediate medical attention,” the ad—which also mocked Boehner for his orange-hued skin—advised.
Unfortunately, Winteregg lost both the primary and his teaching job.
Rob Maness, another Tea Party Patriot ™ (endorsed, of course, by Palin) is running for the U.S. Senate in Louisiana’s November jungle primary to unseat Democratic three-term incumbent, Mary Landrieu.
Maness released a slickly-produced, 30-second commercial where he wears cargo, shoots a gun, floats around a swamp on an airboat, and has his way with an alligator.
“Here in Louisiana, you learn to be tough,” Maness informs. “One moment of weakness, and the alligators can eat you alive.”
Maness is then shows tying a rope around an alligator’s jaw. “Louisiana needs a senator who will stand up to the career politicians, and the alligators.”
Maness is polling at 4%.
David Perdue is running a very competitive race for the U.S. Senate in Georgia’s May 20 Republican primary.
In February, Perdue released a five-minute video that opens with him, wearing denim-on-denim (a popular look!) walking along a large field. Besides making it seem like becoming a successful businessman is as important as winning a war or discovering a new country, the ad depicts Perdue’s opponents as babies.
Perdue has actual babies in the ad, wearing white onesies labeled in red with his opponents’ names—he even put pearls on the baby meant to represent former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel.
Longshot Bob Quast is not going to win the election for the U.S. Senate in Iowa, but he should win something for this commercial.
The ad begins with Quast literally running. “Hi, I’m Bob, and I am running,” he says. “Running for Iowa’s open seat in the U.S. Senate.”
Quast talks a bit about #TermLimits before the ad cuts to him serenely walking down the stairs in his home. “If you are the sexual predator and sociopath who murdered my sister Lynette, and you come to my front door to do harm to my girls, I’m gonna use my Glock to blow your balls off,” Quast says, as he takes out a gun and smiles, light twinkling on one of his teeth.
Then, Quast brings up Joni Ernst, and takes out a knife to, I guess, remind voters about her castration skills.
Bob Quast soon returned with another commercial, this time promising to raffle off a free car in exchange for supporters signing up on his website.
In the back of a limo, wearing a plaid blazer, Quast raises his drink and says with a wink, “you stay classy, Iowa.”
You too, Bob Quast.