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The Best House Ads

We've made our picks for the best television ads run in the presidential and Senate races and today we turn our attention to the House.

This category is always the hardest for us because there are SO MANY ads -- and so many good ads -- run across the country that it's hard for us to pick our favorites.

But pick we must. (After all, that's why they pay The Fix the small bucks!) We offer a pre-emptive apology to all our friends in the media-consulting world whose favorite ad was left off this list.

Below you'll find our favorite ads from the campaign that was. Agree or disagree with our picks? The comments section awaits.

* Martin Heinrich, "Holding Back:" There were, literally, thousands of iterations of the "George Bush and X Candidate are too close for comfort" ads, but we liked this one for its creativity -- a foot race where one of the runners is slowed because of the oil man he is pulling. (Get it?) Heinrich of New Mexico "cuts the cord" in the ad figuratively and literally -- and he rode that message to a win in one of the closely divided districts in the country.

* Lynn Jenkins, "Frugal:" Jenkins was the biggest surprise on election night -- ousting freshman Rep. Nancy Boyda (D) in Kansas' 2nd district. This bio ad -- the first run by the Republican after she emerged from a contentious August primary -- was a nice mix of the traditional (it was shot at her family's dairy farm) with the unconventional (big billboards featuring Jenkins at work appeared next to her as she told her story). A compelling positive ad that laid the groundwork for Jenkins' upset victory.

* Bobby Bright, "Truck:" Bright, the mayor of Montgomery, Ala., was running as a Democrat in a district that gave Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) just 33 percent of the vote for president four years ago. Republicans, smartly, sought to paint Bright as just another national Democrat -- out of step with the rural, conservative district's values. This response by Bright -- a minute-long ad that returned repeatedly to an image of him talking to a handful of older men around his black pickup truck -- was punctuated by these lines: "I'm Bobby Bright and I'm my own man. I approved this message and I hope you do too."

* Leonard Lance, "Linda Stender is a Spender:" When state Assemblywoman Linda Stender ran for Congress ins 2006, her Republican opponent -- Rep. Mike Ferguson (R) -- attacked her for her support of tax increases. So, when Ferguson retired and Stender ran again, state Sen. Leonard Lance (R) borrowed from the 2006 blueprint. This ad -- in which voters call Stender a "big, big spender" proved powerful; Lance won the northern central New Jersey's 7th district that many -- even within the Republican party -- thought was lost.

* National Republican Congressional Committee, "Jim Esch Doesn't Care About Us:" This ad, run in Nebraska's surprisingly competitive 2nd district race, has it all: A tap-dancing, bobble-head of Democrat Jim Esch, prominent placement of Esch's two DUIs, and the allegation that Esch "doesn't care about us." All set to the theme music of Fix TV favorite "Curb Your Enthusiasm". Esch wound up losing to Republican Rep. Lee Terry 52 percent to 48 percent.

* Ashwin Madia, "Running:" There are a lot of boring ways to do a biography ad. This was a standout because it broke from convention -- telling the story of Madia, an unsuccessful candidate for Congress in Minnesota's open 3rd district, while he ran along the streets of the district. "When I was in Baghad I was never able to do this," Madia said. "Just go anywhere and run." Powerful stuff.

* Freedom's Watch, Dina Titus: The race in Nevada's 3rd district featured some of the nastiest ads in the country but this one -- paid for by Freedom's Watch -- stood out to us. Why? Because any ad that can effectively use the phrase "taxes up the yingyang" is a winner in our book. Of course, even this ad wasn't enough to save Rep. Jon Porter (R), whose political career came down with a terminal case of Dina Titus (D).

* Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, "The Fundamentals:" For years, Democrats had struggled to convinced Connecticut voters that Rep. Chris Shays (R) was part of the party they didn't like in Washington. This ad did it effectively -- using audio from President George W. Bush, John McCain and Shays praising the "fundamentals" of the economy. And, lo and behold, Democrats finally beat Shays this time around.

* NRCC, "Wheel of Corruption:" Granted, the NRCC had lots to work with in their ad campaign against Hialeah, Fla., Mayor Raul Martinez. But, using the "Wheel of Fortune" theme was a nice touch. Also, does it get any more brutal than this tag line -- punctuated by the sound of a prison cell door slamming? "We know Martinez is corrupt enough for Washington. But that doesn't mean we should send him there."

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 11, 2008; 6:43 AM ET
Categories:  House  
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Comments

Lynn Jenkins was the biggest surprise on election night?? CC and everyone else had been writing about Nancy Boyda's high vulnerability from the moment she stunningly upset Jim Ryun in 2006! Jenkins' victory was one of the LEAST surprising results from last Tuesday. Don Young getting reelected--THAT is a real surprise.

Posted by: JonSM99 | November 13, 2008 1:58 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad Madia's ad made you feel warm and fuzzy, Chris.

Unfortunately, it didn't help win the election, which is the typical purpose of political ads. $5,000,000 spent in our district by Madia and friends (DCCC and others) brought only 40% of the vote. This is in a District where Democrats have achieved a 50/50 split of the State House and Senate seats. Madia was simply not up to the challenge of CD3, regardless of what you wise folk speculated from afar. We locals told 'em that a 30 year old with a thin resume, minimal district ties and no record of local service would be a weak candidate, but they didn't want to listen.

By the way, here's my comment on the ad at the time it ran:

It's not memorable. The soft camera focus, coupled with the soft message, make the ad feel indistinct and ignorable. Turn off the sound and try to guess what he's selling. His name is only on the screen twice, for a total of about 5 seconds. Blink twice and you miss the most important part of the message. I wonder if they did any focus groups, with this as one of a series of ads for various subjects (as will be the context on TV), checking to see which of them were best remembered.

There's no visual attempt to connect with the viewer. Ashwin's face is rarely seen, usually at a distance, and is expressionless throughout the ad. He runs toward us, but never gets really close. Then he runs away from us. It's already a potential drawback that he's unknown, unknowable, unapproachable, because he's young, he hasn't distinguished himself in the District, whatever. The visual distance of the ad, with the impression of his running past us without acknowledging us, reinforces the other distances between him and the viewer.

Nobody's with him. He's alone throughout the ad. Introduction as a solitary guy may make it that much harder to counter Paulsen's own glowing ads yet to come, featuring a beautiful family of glowing blonde babies. I think "a family man - one of us" trumps "solitary soldier - ready to serve" when we vote on which personality to send to Washington.


Posted by: minndem | November 12, 2008 11:38 PM | Report abuse


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NOOO no one ever said during the campaign that Obama ever flirted with terrorists....


NOO not our precious Obama who can do no wrong in the eyes of the liberal media.


Hamas Claims Secret Relationship with Obama Aides

by Hana Levi Julian


(IsraelNN.com) Hamas is claiming close and ongoing ties with America's upcoming Obama Administration, according to a report published Tuesday in the Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat. The relationship was kept under wraps until after the U.S. elections so as not to harm Obama’s election prospects. The U.S. has classified Hamas a terrorist organization.

The London-based publication interviewed Gaza-based political chief Ahmad Yousuf, advisor to Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas regime in Gaza, which seized power in a bloody coup d’etat in 2007. Yousuf declared that Hamas has been in regular contact with President-elect Barack Obama’s advisers for months.

"We were in contact with a number of Obama's aides through the internet, and later met with some of them in Gaza," the Hamas official was quoted as saying, "but they advised us not to come out with any statements, as that may have had a negative effect on his election campaign

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Posted by: 37thOSt | November 12, 2008 8:30 AM | Report abuse


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NOOO no one ever said during the campaign that Obama ever flirted with terrorists....


NOO not our precious Obama who can do no wrong in the eyes of the liberal media.


Hamas Claims Secret Relationship with Obama Aides

by Hana Levi Julian


(IsraelNN.com) Hamas is claiming close and ongoing ties with America's upcoming Obama Administration, according to a report published Tuesday in the Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat. The relationship was kept under wraps until after the U.S. elections so as not to harm Obama’s election prospects. The U.S. has classified Hamas a terrorist organization.

The London-based publication interviewed Gaza-based political chief Ahmad Yousuf, advisor to Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas regime in Gaza, which seized power in a bloody coup d’etat in 2007. Yousuf declared that Hamas has been in regular contact with President-elect Barack Obama’s advisers for months.

"We were in contact with a number of Obama's aides through the internet, and later met with some of them in Gaza," the Hamas official was quoted as saying, "but they advised us not to come out with any statements, as that may have had a negative effect on his election campaign

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Posted by: 37thOSt | November 12, 2008 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the sorting, Chris, and for the list. The Madia ad was the best of these - unconventional, positive, even moving.

But I liked the Alan Grayson ad posted by dani0345 a lot, too. The dramatic music, the use of the briefcase and the airplane hangar, even the slamming of the briefcase at the end -- they made the point effectively, and stopped just on the good side of the line separating "dramatic" from "cheesy."

I approve this blog post, and this comment.

Posted by: drrico | November 11, 2008 5:11 PM | Report abuse

finally proof that Fox news is definately gone too far. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKFyNkNbO3g

Huckabee Getting Ready To Announce his Intent to Run in 2012? http://www.HuckabeeShow.com

Posted by: pastor123 | November 11, 2008 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I believed you missed quite a big one Chris....

from your friend and my boss Bill Hillsman

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61dD4X8Doa0

"Case Closed" - Alan Grayson (D)

He unseated a 3 term Repub in a district that hasn't gone to a Dem in almost 3 decades.

Posted by: dani0345 | November 11, 2008 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I lobbied Rep. Boyda last year on behalf of a non-profit entity; I must say I have never, in my 15 years or so in and around Democratic politics, ever met anyone so apparently unsuited for the job. Taciturn, unpleasant and dismissive, Boyda seemed like she had no desire to be there. The way she ran her campaign seems to support that assertion.

Posted by: soonerthought | November 11, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Ads were not as effective as ideas in this election. Phrases like 'turn the page', 'out of touch', 'erratic' and 'losing his bearings' had a huge impact in this race as well... http://www.enewsreference.wordpress.com

Posted by: nquotes | November 11, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Great list, Chris! I know it wasn't the best one but Keith Fimian calling Gerry Connolly "too corrupt--even for Congress" was very funny.

Posted by: amyuw05 | November 11, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Great list. Quick correction: That's the theme to "Curb Your Enthusiasm" in the anti-Esch spot.

Posted by: mistertutone | November 11, 2008 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Enjoyed watching your list, all of which were new to me. Thanx.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 11, 2008 9:10 AM | Report abuse

1. I thought the theme music for "Married With Children" was Sinatra singing "Love and Marriage".

2. Two of Iowa's state congressmen ran the identical ad with only the names and faces changed. It was as if the two of them spent the day with the same film company and they first filmed Candidate A at his desk turning over pages, then Candidate B at the exact same desk at the exact same camera angle turning over the exact same pages. Maybe these will make it to your bottom 10 list of local advertisements.

Posted by: egc52556 | November 11, 2008 8:39 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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