The internet gazed in wonder yesterday at the “Demon Sheep” campaign ad put out by Carly Fiorina, Republican candidate for the Senate in California. It has many brain-searing qualities: a tortured sheep metaphor (teased out with pigs, an alpha sheep that tumbles from a pedestal through a storm-ripped sky, and a guy in a sheep suit and a canvas mask with glowing red eyes), sententious chanting, and a voice-over by, it sounds like, someone from Massachusetts.
It’s a humdinger. But is it the worst political ad of our time? Thanks in part to the dream-enabling power of the stupid internet, there are at least seven other candidates among current and recent political ads for that dubious title. Take a look at them and judge for yourself.
1. Dwight McKenna: My Opponent is Dr. Frankenstein (2010). Where else but in Nawlins would you have an attack ad in a coroner’s race? There were charges years ago that, on the watch of New Orleans Coroner Frank Minyard, body parts were illegally harvested out of corpses in the Parish morgue. Dwight McKenna, seeking to unseat the nine-term incumbent, portrays Minyard as a mad scientist shaking a handful of ripe guts and calling for his assistant Igor to supply him with “a heart, a spleen, and a liver for tonight’s sale.”
How It’s Working: Minyard’s people have complained; McKenna on MSNBC claims that it’s he who is owed an apology. Hard to say how McKenna, who served nine months for tax evasion, will fare in this race, but his ad has definitely had an impact: terrified viewers have been pulling out of the local organ donors program.
2. John Oxendine: The Ox vs. King Roy the Rat (2009). Sadly the clip’s been pulled [Update: A reader found it for us! See above], but we remember all too well Georgia Insurance Commissioner and GOP gubernatorial candidate Oxendine’s portrayal of himself as an ox (“strong enough to oppose the special interest, graceful enough to care for the people”) beating the hell out of “liberal, anti-business, anti-education” Democrat Roy Barnes, personified as a rat. Head-butted by The Ox, Roy The Rat hurtles from the Gold Dome of the statehouse through several major cities, including Paris (“The Ox says ‘That may work in France, but not Georgia’ “).
How It’s Working: Believe it or not, Oxendine is the front-runner for the 2010 Republican nomination, despite an accusation by a former GOP challenger, Representative Lynn Westmoreland, that Oxendine tried to muscle him out of the race with an investigation of his business dealings. Will the Ox — be gored?
3. Brewster McCracken: St. Louis Sucks (2009). Austin, Texas Mayor Pro Tem Brewster McCracken sought to keep his seat in a 2009 election, and did so by touting the high-tech “Austin Model” of city planning. That’s not so weird; what is weird is the first third of the ad, in which McCracken tells viewers what a hellhole St. Louis (which was apparently run on the St. Louis Model) has become, with projections of splendid early-20th-century St. Lou turning into decrepit, abandoned buildings. This understandably pissed off St. Louisans , and McCracken’s opponent, councilman Lee Leffingwell, responded, “Nobody should run down another city and insult the people who live there just to score political points at home.”
How It Worked: McCracken lost to Leffingwell, and declined to participate in a runoff. Maybe there were some St. Louis expats among the electorate.
4. Andy Martin: My Opponent is a Homo (2009). Political gadfly and Republican Illinois Senate candidate Andy Martin probably figured he needed something big to beat Representative Mark Kirk; being an astute student of American politics, he went with explosive, unsubstantiated charges. After bragging in this radio ad that he had “exposed many of Barack Obama’s lies,” Martin announced he was “fighting for the facts” on Kirk — which “facts” turn out to be a “‘solid rumor that Kirk is a homosexual.” He claimed a Republican boss said Kirk was “part of a Republican Party homosexual club,” and that another boss said Kirk had “surrounded himself with homosexuals.” The state GOP denounced the ad and said Martin “will no longer be recognized as a legitimate Republican Candidate” by the Party. Whatta buncha RINOs!
How It Worked: Illinois just had its primary: Kirk got the nomination; Martin received five percent of the vote.
6. Adriane Reesey: Vote for Me, I’m Zany (2008). Broward County, Florida, is known for its problems with absentee ballots, so it stands to reason a challenger for the office of Supervisor of Elections would address the issue. Lo-budget Democratic candidate Adriane Reesey does so in this ad, in what she apparently thought was a humorous way. In fact, she felt so secure in its uproariousness that she devoted most of her ad to “outtakes,” sort of like the kind seen at the end of Hollwyood comedies, except not funny. Low point: the candidate is pushed into a swimming pool. (More about her cute, maladroit campaign here.)
How It Worked: Reesey lost the Democratic primary to incumbent Brenda Snipes with 16 percent of the vote, but managed to get appointed to the Fort Lauderdale’s Citizens Police Review Board — though we expect she’ll give it up one day to follow the irresistible lure of prop comedy.
7. James Perry: #!@!%?! (2009). Ah, New Orleans again. Housing activist James Perry, who sued Mayor Ray Nagin for wasting city funds on fancy lawyers, is running now for mayor himself. His campaign is progressive and seriously underfunded, but unlike Andy Martin, he has eschewed slander as a political tactic, and gone instead for obscenity — expurgated, of course, but despite the bleeps you can easily tell these angry citizens are reacting to tales of the status quo with “Are you shitting me?” “Are you fucking kidding me?” and (this from a funny old man) “What the fuck?” over a funky wacka-wacka soundtrack.
How It’s Working: Mitch Landrieu leads in the race, to be decided this Saturday. “Outside of New Orleans, progressives and liberals are excited about Perry,” says The Indypendent. “But in New Orleans, the candidate seems relatively unknown.” What, with material like this? Balls!