Politics is a dirty game, and it gets even dirtier when you start giving cash to ad agencies to get your message out. The art of the political commercial is a delicate one, and what might seem like a well-reasoned argument from the inside can come off looking totally bonkers to voters. As the 2012 elections come up, we thought we’d look back at 10 of the most insane political ads ever aired.
Carly Fiorina – Demon Sheep
This ad, for California Republican Carly Fiorina’s unsuccessful 2010 run for Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat, hits all of the crazy marks and more. It starts out fairly innocuous, with wildlife footage of gamboling sheep, but then transforms into one of the most demented things ever seen. The ad doesn’t even go after Boxer, but rather Tom Campbell, who was contesting the Republican nomination from Fiorina. And then the glowing-eyed, evil sheep comes out at the end of the clip and things really go off the rails. Oh, and did we mention that this puppy is over three minutes long?
Christine O’Donnell – I Am Not a Witch
Okay, if you’re trying to look like a sane and stable fiscal conservative, it might not be such a good idea to lead your TV spots with “I am not a witch.” And yet, for some reason, Delaware Tea Party Republican Christine O’Donnell felt the need to respond to an old interview she’d done where she talked about high-school pranks and make it the focal point of her campaign. When this thing hit the airwaves, it tanked her political career in one fell swoop, as if her ignorance of the Constitution and insane hard-line, anti-gay stance wasn’t enough already.
Nancy Johnson – I’m Chris Murphy
Connecticut Senator Nancy Johnson was the longest-serving representative from the state in 2006, with a staggering 12 terms under her belt, so she wasn’t going to take any guff from progressive Democrat Chris Murphy with his talk of “campaign finance reform” and “environmental responsibility.” Johnson unleashed a veritable tsunami of gross attack ads against the rookie politician, but the worst is the one where she hired an actor to impersonate him and made him act like he supported child molesters and drug dealers. The ads backfired, with voters turning away from Johnson in droves.
Mike Gravel – Rock
With a lot of these ads, you can kind of see what the candidate was going for. Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, though. That guy was on a whole new level. During his 2008 presidential run, Gravel (a serious veteran with a political career that started in 1968) launched a number of commercials that left issues and politics behind to dive head-first into the surreal. One pictured the far-left candidate staring into a campfire for almost 10 minutes, but our personal favorite was “Rock,” in which he stared into the camera until it got really uncomfortable, walked to a lake, threw a huge rock into it with his bare hands and then walked off. Needless to say, Gravel didn’t snag the nomination, but he’ll always have a place in our hearts.
John Oxendine – The Ox vs. King Roy the Rat
When political ads get animated, things often go way off the rails. Former Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine decided to make a shot at the big time in 2009 against Democrat Roy Barnes for the Governor’s vacated seat, and he fired his first shot with this totally nutty commercial that portrayed Barnes as a skittering lord of vermin in a gilded crown, and Oxendine as a farm animal. Made with some of the cheapest clip art we’ve ever seen, and a snide narrator that drips venom every time he says “the rat,” this four-minute epic ad hits all the cheap targets on its way to bringing Oxendine to a fourth-place finish in the primaries.
Elizabeth Dole – Promise
One of the sleaziest political ads of all time was taken out in the 2008 North Carolina Senate campaign. Elizabeth Dole, wife of one-time Republican Presidential candidate Bob Dole, looked to have a pretty clear shot at re-election until upstart Kay Hagen made the scene. With little ammunition to use against her challenger, Dole’s campaign seized on a fairly innocuous thing -- that a political action committee composed of atheists had made a donation to Hagen -- and blew it up into “Promise,” an insane piece of fear-mongering that depicted Kay Hagen screaming “There is no God!” She never did that, by the way. In fact, Kay Hagen was a Sunday school teacher. The ad was so trashy that Dole lost by a nine-point margin, with many pundits blaming that one awful ad.
Craig Huey – Give Us Your Cash, B-tch! (NSFW language)
Politicians pander to prejudice on a regular basis, but most of them do it with a little more subtlety than California Tea Party PAC “Turn Right USA.” Working on behalf of Republican Craig Huey, the ad seized on a gang intervention program sponsored by Democratic candidate Janice Hahn and proceeded to twist it into the most spectacularly racist/sexist thing ever aired in a political campaign. Words can’t even do this disaster justice, and it was so bad that Huey’s campaign staff tried to distance themselves from the PAC. Needless to say, Hahn won the election by a country mile.
Vernon Robinson – Twilight Zone
If there’s one way to win the votes of crazy old people, it’s to shoot your ad in black and white. North Carolina Congressional candidate Vernon Robinson pulled out all of the stops for this ad for his unsuccessful 2006 campaign against incumbent Brad Miller. It’s like a veritable "Who’s Who" of things white conservatives hate. Gays! Mexicans! Al Sharpton! Robinson’s whole campaign was rife with this kind of stereotyping, but it certainly didn’t bring voters out for him. He’s running again this year, so we’ll see how things work out the third time around.
Mark Oxner – Turn This Ship Around
There are plenty of valid ways to critique Barack Obama’s economic policy. Making a computer-animated cartoon where he’s the captain of a pirate ship using children as slaves is probably not one of them. Oxner, who is running for Florida’s 27th-district Senate seat against Alan Grayson this year, is inordinately proud of this bizarre clip, which features the “U.S.S. Obamaboat” flying the American flag upside down and sailing over a waterfall as its passengers toast Obama for all of the despicable and evil things he’s done.
Next: Hilarious Glamour Shots Fails
Jim Slattery – Hosed
You kind of have to give Kansas Democrat Jim Slattery credit for not beating around the bush with his 2008 campaign ad. Running for Senate against incumbent Pat Roberts, Slattery tried to capture the upswell of bad feelings against big business and big government. Unfortunately, he chose a very bizarre metaphor: a giant dude in a suit peeing on people. Yes, the good men and women of Kansas did not enjoy imagining themselves as living urinal cakes, and Roberts held on to his Senate seat.