10 Freakiest Campaign Ads from Election 2010

Headshot of Tim Nudd

The candidates in the 2010 election bludgeoned us for two years with advertisements ranging from the uninspired to the obnoxious. Thankfully, though, a handful of the commercials were so over the top, they became entertaining—good for a laugh, if not always good for the candidate. Below, check out AdFreak’s picks for the 2010 election cycle’s freakiest campaign ads.

  1. Christine O’Donnell



    Click to view. The Delaware Senate candidate used the first spot in her general-election race against Chris Coons to make the 2010 election season’s most notorious declaration: “I’m not a witch.” Orchestrated by GOP ad wizard Fred Davis, it was a calculated move designed to directly address rumors that she’d once dabbled in witchcraft—something she allegedly admitted to on Bill Maher’s old show, Politically Incorrect. It backfired. The “Witch” spot became the subject of endless parodies, keeping the topic alive for weeks and prompting O’Donnell eventually to admit that she regretted making the ad at all. • O’Donnell trailed Coons by around 20 percent in most polls throughout the race, but had closed the gap to about half that by the eve of the election. • O’Donnell lost to Coons.

  2. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

    “Transformer” (anti-Mark Kirk)


    Click to view. This Web video was the only one to portray the opposition—in this case, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)—as a giant marauding robot. The DSCC claimed that Kirk had become a “transformer” in the Illinois Senate race, pretending he’s a moderate when his record reflects otherwise. If elected, Kirk will presumably have to pay for all that Capitol Hill marble he’s damaged. • Kirk and Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias were statistically tied in several polls during the last week before the election. • Kirk defeated Giannoulias.

  3. Dale Peterson

    “Get Away From That!” (pro-John McMillan)


    Click to view. It was a hell of a season for campaign ads in Alabama. Gubernatorial candidate Tim James made national headlines with a spot in which he promised to abolish foreign-language driver’s-lience exams. (“This is Alabama,” he said. “We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it.”) But James was upstaged by Dale Peterson, candidate for state agriculture commissioner. His first spot, titled “We’re Better Than That!,” featured Peterson waving his gun around and inveighing against the “thugs and criminals” and “dummies” that are driving Alabama into the ground. After failing to secure the nomination, he backed former rival John McMillan with this spot, in which he vows to use his firearm to protect McMillan’s yard signs. Don’t mess with Dale. • Peterson lost in the primary, but clearly has a future in politics and/or yard-sign protection. • McMillan won the race for agriculture commissioner.

  4. Mike Weinstein

    “Representing District 19”


    Click to view. The first of two musical spots on our list, this one is an awesome ’80s-style music-video endorsement of Florida state Rep. Mike Weinstein. It’s performed by Mike’s son, Scott Leigh, who apparently writes educational children’s songs when he’s not penning ludicrous odes to his dad. • Probably the only reason Scott hasn’t been kicked out of the family is that Weinstein is running unopposed and has nothing to lose from Scott making an ass out of both of them.

  5. Rudy Moise

    “Rudy Moise for Congress Music Video”


    Click to view. Rudy Moise, who ran for Congress in Florida’s 17th district, outdid even Mike Weinstein with his music video, in which his supporters auto-tune their love for the candidate. It was par for the course for the self-funded Moise, a wealthy Haitian physician whose personal passions also include funding B movies and casting himself as the lead. His productions have included Wind of Desire and Trapped: Haitian Nights, in which he supposedly writhes around in a straitjacket. • Sadly, Moise lost to Frederica Wilson in the Democratic primary.

  1. John Oxendine

    “The Rat vs. the Ox” (anti-Roy Barnes)


    Click to view. He did let the power of the gold dome go to his head! Thus spake John Oxendine, Republican candidate for governor of Georgia, referring to Democratic candidate Roy Barnes, in this bizarre, low-budget, animated fable. The video portrays Barnes, a onetime Georgia governor who secured his party’s nomination again this year, as a power-hungry rat—and positions Oxendine as “the Ox,” a stolid and sensible bovine who would ram Georgia into the future and squish any rodents in his way. Certainly the most Aesopian political ad of the season. • Oxendine was seen as the Republican front-runner for much of the campaign, but he finished fourth in the primary. Rats!

  2. Carly Fiorina

    “Hot Air: The Movie” (anti-Barbara Boxer)


    Click to view. No one knows from whence it came. The narrator is speaking, of course, about the Barbara Boxer blimp, the terrifying dirigible in this Carly Fiorina spot (from GOP ad consultant Fred Davis) who floats around menacingly, doing California a disservice by being “one the most liberal, partisan [Senate] members, more full of hot air than she is solutions to our real problems.” Maybe the Conan blimp can travel west and do battle with the Barbara Boxer blimp. • On the eve of the election, Boxer held a lead of close to 10 points over Fiorina in most polls. • Boxer defeated Fiorina handily.

  3. Tim Burns

    “Attack of the 50-Foot Pelosi” (anti-Nancy Pelosi)


    Click to view. Another CGI masterpiece, this spot from Pennsylvania Congressional candidate Tim Burns portrayed Democratic speaker Nancy Pelosi as a bloated, wild-eyed, pillaging giantess wreaking havoc on little people everywhere. Says the narrator: “Gorged on our taxpayer dollars, Pelosi has grown into a power-hungry goliath, defying the will of the American people. Who has the power to stop her? Who can save America? You, the Pennsylvania voter!” • Burns, the would-be giant killer, first has to defeat Democrat Mark Critz. The week before the election, Critz had a surprisingly comfortable lead in the polls. • Critz defeated Burns.

  4. Carly Fiorina

    “FCINO” (anti-Tom Campbell)


    Click to view. This second Fiorina spot on our list (another classic from GOP ad guru Fred Davis) portrayed Fiorina’s primary opponent, Tom Campbell, as a wolf in sheep’s clothing—a disguise apparently concocted by the costume designer from Tom Baker-era Doctor Who, complete with glowing red eyes. This spot has it all—the stupid animal analogy, the ominous music, the ludicrous acronym describing Campbell as an FCINO (Fiscal Conservative in Name Only). Davis is either a moron or a genius—undoubtedly skilled at getting his candidates talked about, but probably laughed at in equal measure. • As mentioned above, Boxer held a lead of close to 10 points over Fiorina in most polls on the eve of the election. • Boxer defeated Fiorina handily.

  5. Level the Playing Field

    “Avatar” (anti-Meg Whitman)


    Click to view. Level the Playing Field, a Democratic campaign group dedicated to opposing Meg Whitman’s multimillion-dollar gubernatorial run in California, succeeded in making the Republican look silly—borderline scary, actually—in this animated spot presenting the former eBay CEO as an online avatar. No one’s likely to bid on a creature like that. • Democrat Jerry Brown led Whitman in most polls—by as much as 10 points in one—as Election Day approached. • Whitman lost the governor’s race to Jerry Brown.

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.