NDN Political Ad Wrap 2006: Amazing - Xenophobic

Sorry I couldn't come up with a Z word.  But If you're getting tired of pacing and biting your nails waiting for election returns, here are some of the political ads that stood out this year.  Also make sure to read James Crabtree's picks in the Guardian

It's been a landmark year in political advertising, with new approaches taken to breaking through the media clutter and connecting to voters.  Sure, there were plenty of grainy attack ads that made the usual distortions and took words and votes out of context.  There were also soft-focus bio spots with uplifting music that showed candidates with any combination of children/men in hard hats/senior citizens /their families, etc.  But what made this cycle of political advertising stand out was the new wave of political ads that Simon described as "more real, more intimate, more authentic."

Here is my personal and incomplete (especially since it barely touches on the rise of YouTube and viral video) list of some of the best, worst and most original ads of 2006:

Jon Tester is Montana, from his haircut to his boots.  And his early ad "Haircut" made that very clear.  Republicans hit back immediately, but the MDP's response to the response was definitive and effective.

Elliot Spitzer (up by dozens of points in the polls) made the obvious choice to run a positive campaign.

Bill Richardson also faces token opposition, but he went in a little zanier direction

I really enjoyed Arkansas Gubernatorial candidate Mike Beebe's first two campaign ads, and anyone who thinks Democrats can't win in the South should watch them.  The first has Beebe talking into the camera about growing up in a single parent home.  The connection between his mom waiting tables and the need for a raise in the minimum wage is heartfelt, convincing and puts him on the side of the little guy.  He follows that by calling for the elimination of the highly regressive grocery tax, which is both good policy and a way to insulate himself against charges of being a high-tax DemocratThe second Beebe ad has the best soundtrack of finger-pickin' bluegrass guitar this cycle.  Maybe it's the only ad with bluegrass music this cycle, but it works, with Beebe again looking straight into the camera and talking about his support for gun rights. 

In Massachusetts, independent candidate Christy Mihos briefly ran an ad that provided a unique explanation for the many problems with the Big Dig.  Watch it and you'll see why it only ran after 10:00pm. 

Republican Kerry Healy in MA took a page from the Lee Atwater handbook and ran a really despicable ad intended to scare Bay Staters into not voting for Deval Patrick.  Maybe her team didn't realize that while the "Willie Horton" ads may have contributed to Michael Dukakis' defeat in 1988, he still won Massachusetts. 

In Tennessee, Harold Ford defined himself before his opponent could with an ad on faith.  The RNC responded with the now infamous "Call Me" ad.  Watch it and decide if the obvious race-baiting was even the most effective part of the ad.  If nothing else, "Call Me" further tarred Ken Mehlman's reputation, since just a year ago he apologized for the Republican Southern strategy and promised an end to racial politics.  He also told Tim Russert that as RNC chair he had no control over the ad and could not pull it.  That gives Ken Mehlman the trifecta of lying, being hypocritical and straining credulity.  His reward: a hilarious spoof on the “Call Me” ad, referencing the rumors about his sexuality.

Michael Steele's "Puppy" ad in Maryland was one of the most creative of the year and helped him reinvent himself as an independent candidate.  We'll know how effective the Democratic response was sometime tonight.

Desperate Republicans like Colorado Congressional candidate Rick O’Donnell tried to make illegal immigration a campaign issue.  For more on how demonizing Hispanics worked out, visit www.immigration2006.org.

The Republican Party made one final attempt to use the scare tactics of '02 and '04 in this election with their ticking time bomb ad.

But the most powerful ads didn't come from party committees or candidates; they came form people whose lives are directly affected by the actions of our leaders in Washington.  Michael J. Fox did filmed moving ads in support of candidates who support stem cell research.  And there were responses in MO and MD.  And a new group called Vote Vets filmed ads calling our members or Congress for not providing our soldiers in Iraq with life saving body armor