1 Heads Up
Most voters suspect politicians have their heads firmly lodged where the sun don't shine. Those suspicions were given life in this ad for Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos, created by Bill Hillsman of Northwoods Advertising. Mihos at first balked at the ad, then pushed to have it run after 10 p.m., then gave ground completely. All to no avail. Mihos lost.
2 Puppy love
Maryland Republican Senate candidate Michael Steele came into the race with baggage from past financial problems. Looking to head off attack ads, Steele took a pre-emptive approach, saying his opponent would accuse him of all sorts of things, even being mean to puppies. By ad's end, Steele was cuddling a puppy (not his own) and declaring his love for the fur balls. Steele lost.
3 The race challenge
Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin had a problem: He's white; opponent Michael Steele is black. So how to play the race card without looking like you're doing it? In a spot from Washington's Laguens Hamburger Kully Klose, Cardin shows himself holding non-racial discourse in front of an ethnically balanced audience. Subtle, effective and a little funny. Cardin won.
4 The silent Bush
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this ad is that it took so long for someone to make it. Created by A-Political, this September Fund ad shows voters asking tough questions and expecting answers from a bush. Blogospherian lefties have called George W. Bush "Shrub" from the beginning, so this was a nice nod to activists.
5 The horror
This ad for the RNC featured a ticking clock and threatening quotes from various terrorists. Not surprisingly, the party was accused of trying to, in the words of our own Bob Garfield, "scare the living crap out of the American people." We'd like to point out that those quotes were factual and within context. And considering the outcome of the elections, the American people don't scare that easily.
6 Mad about Maddy
Perhaps the oddest ad of the season. David Zucker, the comedic genius behind "Airplane!," went to bat for the RNC and came up with an ad that features former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright doing errands for terrorists and cozying up to North Korea. We're not quite sure what the ad was supposed to accomplish, but it was fun to watch.
7 Just shocking!
Believe it or not, there is a line in political advertising-even in Cincinnati. And this ad, paid for by the Republican National Congressional Committee in support of incumbent representative Steve Chabot, apparently crossed it. In the process of claiming Democratic opponent John Cranley approved of the Tasering of children, the ad showed a wee lass with a lightning bolt going through her head. The ad was pulled.
8 Fish sticks
John Cranley was no angel in this race, though his negative advertising took an unintentionally funny turn. A spot meant to show the incumbent had lost touch with constituents insinuated that Steve Chabot was living it up in D.C. and feasting on monster shrimp. Then viewers were shown a hardworking Ohio family forced to make do ... with fish sticks. Chabot won.
9 Morning in New York
Eliot Spitzer's ad campaign, created by Jimmy Siegel's New York-based A-Political, received high marks for staying on message and keeping clear of the gutter. The "Tribute" spot conjures a magical New York of long ago (and memories of a certain Ronald Reagan commercial). It was pointed out, though, that Spitzer could afford to keep it clean because he had a monumental lead in the polls from Day One.
10 Women can't fight
The George Allen-Jim Webb battle for a Virginia Senate seat garnered plenty of national media attention, but this was one of our favorite spots. It's not flashy or overly funny. But after digging up a 1979 article written by Webb called "Women Can't Fight," the Allen campaign came out with this spot, featuring a former Naval Academy midshipman and Democrat calling Webb a big, mean sexist. And a liar. Webb won.
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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the Silent Bush ad (No. 4) to McCarthy Marcus Hennings, Washington. The correct ageny is A-Political