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The 10 nastiest Senate races

In just the past 48 hours, the Illinois Senate race between state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R) has turned very nasty.

Kirk started the mudslinging with two ads that charge -- among other things -- that Giannoulias "made risky loans to convicted mobsters". Giannoulias quickly struck back with a 60-second ad detailing Kirk's repeated misrepresentations of his own military record.(Watch these ads. They are brutal -- in a good way.)

With the ad wars now engaged, it's not likely that they will end any time soon. And with both campaigns already using the howitzers on one another, it's hard to imagine what they will be saying about one another in the final month of the campaign. (The Nov. 2 election is still 124 days away!)

We've long suspected that the Illinois race would take the prize as the nastiest fight of the 2010 election cycle -- although the Nevada contest between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and former state assemblywoman Sharron Angle won't be pretty, either.

But, where will Kirk vs. Giannoulias fit in the modern history of nasty Senate races? (Yes, these are the things we spend our days thinking about.)

These are races in which, in the words of former Fix boss Charlie Cook, "there are no winners, only survivors." Races where the winner emerges bent and broken, the literal lesser of two evils. Races that voters try to forget as soon as they end but political professionals spend years reminiscing about.

Our goal? Find the 10 nastiest races of the past three decades. Through lots (and lots) of conversations with political operatives, handicappers and historians -- plus some digging into the old Fix memory banks -- our list is below.

Of course, these sorts of lists are meant as a starting point, not a final word on the subject. What races did we miss -- and why? The comments section awaits.

Races are listed alphabetically by state; Virginia and North Carolina each placed two races on the list -- a somewhat dubious distinction.

Let's gets nasty!

California -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) vs. Michael Huffington (R) (1994): Huffington had roared onto the California political scene two years previously when, fueled by millions of his own money, he defeated then-Rep. Bob Lagomarsino in a Republican primary and then cruised in the general election. Huffington's vast wealth -- he wound up spending $28 million of an oil and gas fortune in the race against Feinstein -- made him credible in a state in which television ads are the coin of the realm. The race devolved into personal attacks, with Huffington's then-wife, Arianna, becoming a major issue in the contest (the media dubbed her the "Sir Edmund Hillary of social climbing," according to the indispensable Almanac of American Politics) and the candidates trading charges of employing illegal aliens in the race's final days. All told, the duo spent $44 million and Feinstein eked out a margin of 200,000 votes of 7.5 million cast.

Georgia -- Sen. Max Cleland (D) vs. Saxby Chambliss (R) (2002): This race between Cleland, a freshman Democratic senator who had lost three limbs in Vietnam, and Chambliss, a relatively low-profile Republican House member, was the defining race of post-Sept.11 political environment. Chambliss attacked Cleland in ads that featured images of Osama bin-Laden and Saddam Hussein, among others. Democrats cried foul over what they perceived to be a direct questioning of Cleland's patriotism. Republicans insisted that the ads were focused more narrowly on Cleland's decision to block funding for the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. So resonant was this race for Democrats that Massachusetts Sen.John Kerry regularly mentioned it on the campaign trail in 2004 while he was under attack by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Minnesota -- Sen. Norm Coleman (R) vs. Al Franken (D) (2008): From the start, it was clear that neither Coleman nor Franken would make any pretense about playing "Minnesota nice" in this race. Republicans could barely hide their glee as they gathered a huge opposition research file on Franken's myriad past public writings and statements. Democrats, who had hated Coleman every since he switched parties in the 1990s, were ready to do whatever it took to end his career. The ads were incredibly nasty; Coleman attacked Franken as temperamentally unfit to serve in the Senate in an ad that featured the Democrat repeatedly cursing. Franken hit back with an ad that all but blamed the death of a Minnesota man in Iraq on Coleman. The race was not just mean but also incredibly close; Franken eventually was declared the winner six months after the election.

Missouri -- Sen. John Ashcroft (R) vs. Mel Carhanan (D) (2000): Then-Gov. Mel Carnahan (D) announced that he would take on Ashcroft in November 1998 -- a full two years before voters would decide which of the two Show Me State political titans to send to Washington. Neither man liked the other, and it showed over the course of the next 18 months. Carnahan cast Ashcroft as a tool of the religious right, while Ashcroft attacked Carnahan as a tax-loving liberal. The amazing nastiness of the race is largely forgotten because of what happened Oct. 16, 2000, when a plane carrying Carnahan along with his eldest son and a top campaign aide crashed, killing all aboard. The campaign essentially ended that day as Democrats made it clear that if Carnahan won the race posthumously, which he did, his wife, Jean, would be appointed to the seat.

Nevada -- Sen. Harry Reid (D) vs. John Ensign (R) (1998): The fight between Reid and Ensign, at the time a congressman from the Las Vegas-area 1st district, amounted to an extended air war. Reid went on television in April 1998 while Ensign hit the airwaves just a month later. Neither campaign came down all the way through election day. In one debate,Reid seemed to denigrate Ensign's profession as a veterinarian; Ensign shot back that "the average person has more respect for their veterinarian than the average lawyer." (Reid is a trained lawyer.) Reid ultimately won by 428 votes, though Ensign was elected to the Senate two years later and the two men worked out a political detente for the next decade. This race is even more memorable for what has become of both men since the contest ended more than a decade ago. Reid, of course, went on to be majority leader of the Senate, and Ensign became embroiled in a sex scandal that has badly imperiled his career.

New York -- Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R) vs. Chuck Schumer (D) (1998): Rarely do Senate races feature two bare-knuckled political warriors. This one did -- and became an instant classic. Schumer, a hard-charging New York City congressman at the time, won the September Democratic primary in something of a surprise and immediately attacked D'Amato as having told "too many lies for too long." D'Amato referred to Schumer as a "putzhead" in a private meeting and, when it became public, denied he had done so. He ran ads in Upstate New York that cast Schumer as a shark swimming up the Hudson River. So, yeah, you could say it was nasty. Schumer won convincingly but the race became the contest by which all other New York nastiness is measured.

North Carolina -- Sen. Jesse Helms (R) vs. Jim Hunt (D) (1984): The granddaddy of them all, this epic battle between Helms and Hunt -- the two most iconic Tar Heel State politicians for their respective sides -- might well be the best Senate race in modern history. For starters, Hunt, the popular Democratic governor, had been positioning to run against Helms for much of the early '80s. Second, the two candidates spent $25 million on the race -- an impressive sum nowadays but a stratospheric amount for a campaign that occurred 26 years ago. Helms painted Hunt as a moderate who refused to take positions on big issues. A newspaper friendly to Helms -- known as the Landmark -- accused Hunt of being "prissy" and suggested that he was gay. (A public retraction was later issued.) Hunt, for his part, cast Helms as someone who wanted to take the state back in time and even ran ads seeking to tie Helms to Salvadoran death squads. Race clearly played a role. Helms capitalized on the presidential candidacy of Jesse Jackson to drive his predominantly white supporters to the polls, where he won 52 percent to 48 percent.

North Carolina -- Sen. Jesse Helms (R) vs. Harvey Gantt (D) (1990): If race was an under-the-radar factor in the Helms-Hunt race in 1984, it was out in the open six years later. Helms sought a fourth term against Gantt, the popular African American mayor of Charlotte. The race was close into the fall, when Helms's campaign rolled out the most infamous negative commercial in the history of Senate campaigns -- what came to be known as the "white hands" ad. The commercial showed the hands of a white man crumpling up a rejection letter while ominous music played and a narrator intoned: "You needed that job. You were the most qualified. But they had to give it to a minority because of a racial quota." Tough stuff. Helms won the race, which cost upward of $20 million, by six points. Gantt tried again six years later but lost by a virtually identical margin.

Virginia -- Sen. Chuck Robb (D) vs. Oliver North (R) (1994): This race, which became the subject of "A Perfect Candidate," the Fix's favorite political movie of all time, had it all. Robb, long considered an heir apparent to the presidency, had been brought low by revelations of a nude massage with a woman named Tai Collins. North had become a hero to conservatives (and a scourge to liberals) for his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal. With two candidates so badly flawed, the race amounted to two boxers -- each on the verge of being knocked out -- trying to land a haymaker on the other guy. North raised north of $20 million for the race, while Robb spent $5.5. Marshall Coleman, who ran as an independent, raised and spent nearly $1 million. (This race had it all.) Robb won but was so badly damaged that when he sought a third term in 2000, he was easily defeated by George Allen.

Virginia -- Sen. George Allen (R) vs. Jim Webb (D) (2006): Speaking of Allen, he was gearing up to run for president in 2008 when, one fateful summer day in 2006, he uttered the word "macaca" to describe a South Asian Webb staffer who was taping an event. The race went from a walk-over for Allen to a nail-biter as "macaca" became a massive national story. But Allen climbed back into contention as he -- and the National Republican Senatorial Committee -- bashed Webb for comments he made about the Tailhook scandal, which he described as a "feminist plot" and a "witch hunt"; one ad's tagline read: "Jim Webb ... right for '06 ... 1806." Allen wound up spending $16 million to $8 million for Webb, but "macaca" had done its damage -- Webb won by 9,000 votes out of 2.3 million cast.

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 1, 2010; 2:55 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

I'm late to the party, but no Louisiana political races on this list is a GLARING omission. The 1996 Mary Landrieu- Woody Jenkins was a classic! A winning margin by Landrieu of 5700 out of 1.7 million votes cast, leading to Jenkins petitioning the Republican-led Senate to charge Landrieu with electoral fraud. He was claiming the margin came out of her minority-led political machine in New Orleans (and stirred up a racial gumbo in the process). Only later did it come down that the private investigators Jenkins hired were coaching their witnesses to get them to claim the fraud existed! That was a doozy.

Posted by: wampdaddy2 | July 2, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Let's see, we haveover $11T in debt run up by just the last 3 gop presidents and the gop has the unmitigated GAUL to criticize spending in a time of crisis! We got a war that killed 5000 brave soldiers and maimed for life 13000+ more, that was based on hundreds of lies! We have huge tax cuts for wealthy interests, resuling in HUGE deficits and we now have a near depression where the economy and fincncial system of the United State of America was nearly destroyed!!(think about that!) And NOW the gop , as planned, are using the national debt that their 3 presidents ran up, DELIBERATELY, to finally coming clean and talk about cutting or eliminating SS, Medicare and Medicaid! They nearly succeed in "starving the beast"!

You wanna put the fox back guarding the chicken coop after he's eaten SO MANY CHICKENS????? I think not! Wake up America!! We dont have a helluva lot of chickens left!

Posted by: TominNH | July 2, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Let's see, we haveover $11T in debt run up by just the last 3 gop presidents and the gop has the unmitigated GAUL to criticize spending in a time of crisis! We got a war that killed 5000 brave soldiers and maimed for life 13000+ more, that was based on hundreds of lies! We have huge tax cuts for wealthy interests, resuling in HUGE deficits and we now have a near depression where the economy and fincncial system of the United State of America was nearly destroyed!!(think about that!) And NOW the gop , as planned, are using the national debt that their 3 presidents ran up, DELIBERATELY, to finally coming clean and talk about cutting or eliminating SS, Medicare and Medicaid! They nearly succeed in "starving the beast"!

You wanna put the fox back guarding the chicken coop after he's eaten SO MANY CHICKENS????? I think not! Wake up America!! We dont have a helluva lot of chickens left!

Posted by: TominNH | July 2, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Let's see, we haveover $11T in debt run up by just the last 3 gop presidents and the gop has the unmitigated GAUL to criticize spending in a time of crisis! We got a war that killed 5000 brave soldiers and maimed for life 13000+ more, that was based on hundreds of lies! We have huge tax cuts for wealthy interests, resuling in HUGE deficits and we now have a near depression where the economy and fincncial system of the United State of America was nearly destroyed!!(think about that!) And NOW the gop , as planned, are using the national debt that their 3 presidents ran up, DELIBERATELY, to finally coming clean and talk about cutting or eliminating SS, Medicare and Medicaid! They nearly succeed in "starving the beast"!

You wanna put the fox back guarding the chicken coop after he's eaten SO MANY CHICKENS????? I think not! Wake up America!! We dont have a helluva lot of chickens left!

Posted by: TominNH | July 2, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Let's see, we haveover $11T in debt run up by just the last 3 gop presidents and the gop has the unmitigated GAUL to criticize spending in a time of crisis! We got a war that killed 5000 brave soldiers and maimed for life 13000+ more, that was based on hundreds of lies! We have huge tax cuts for wealthy interests, resuling in HUGE deficits and we now have a near depression where the economy and fincncial system of the United State of America was nearly destroyed!!(think about that!) And NOW the gop , as planned, are using the national debt that their 3 presidents ran up, DELIBERATELY, to finally coming clean and talk about cutting or eliminating SS, Medicare and Medicaid! They nearly succeed in "starving the beast"!

You wanna put the fox back guarding the chicken coop after he's eaten SO MANY CHICKENS????? I think not! Wake up America!! We dont have a helluva lot of chickens left!

Posted by: TominNH | July 2, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Let's see, we haveover $11T in debt run up by just the last 3 gop presidents and the gop has the unmitigated GAUL to criticize spending in a time of crisis! We got a war that killed 5000 brave soldiers and maimed for life 13000+ more, that was based on hundreds of lies! We have huge tax cuts for wealthy interests, resuling in HUGE deficits and we now have a near depression where the economy and fincncial system of the United State of America was nearly destroyed!!(think about that!) And NOW the gop , as planned, are using the national debt that their 3 presidents ran up, DELIBERATELY, to finally coming clean and talk about cutting or eliminating SS, Medicare and Medicaid! They nearly succeed in "starving the beast"!

You wanna put the fox back guarding the chicken coop after he's eaten SO MANY CHICKENS????? I think not! Wake up America!! We dont have a helluva lot of chickens left!

Posted by: TominNH | July 2, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

How has the "Red Pepper" campaign of 1950, in which George Smathers unseated Sen. Claude Pepper in the Dem primary in Florida, not been mentioned. From wikipedia:

"In 1950 George Smathers, formerly a supporter, broke with Pepper and ran against him in the Democratic primary (which at the time in Florida was tantamount to election, the Republican Party still being in infancy there). The contest was extremely heated, and revolved around policy issues, especially charges that Pepper represented the far left and was too supportive of Stalin. Pepper's opponents circulated widely a 49-page booklet titled The Red Record of Senator Claude Pepper.[5]

Part of American political lore is the Smathers "redneck speech," which Smathers reportedly delivered to a poorly educated audience. The "speech" was never given; it was a hoax dreamed up by one reporter. Smathers did not say, as was reported in Time Magazine during the campaign:

Are you aware that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law, and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper, before his marriage, habitually practiced celibacy.[6]
The Smathers campaign denied his having made the speech, as did the reporters who covered his campaign, but the hoax followed Smathers to his death.[7]
"

Also, speaking of Texas, the Johnston-Stevenson race of 1948 was pretty ugly, both during the campaign and in the recounting and such.

Posted by: joeyjoejoe | July 2, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

If the mob charges are true (a big if of course), the ad is a warning to banqueters at Heorot Hall of a greedily loping monster.

Posted by: Martial | July 1, 2010 10:08 PM | Report abuse

BARNEY FRANK...I LOVE YOU! YOU REALLY BLEW IT OUT THE WATER TODAY!!!!

NASTY REPUBLICANS HELD CONGRESS FROM 1994 TO 2006...AND HAVE THE NERVE TO BLAME THIS MESS ON THE DEMOCRATS!

TO VOTE A REPUBLICAN BACK IN...IS AS...BASS ACKWARD...AS IS...LETTING THE WOLVES WATCH OVER THE HEN HOUSE

MARK KIRK IS DEAD...HE WILL "MISREMEMBER" HIS BID FOR THE SEAT AFTER NOVEMBER

Posted by: dove369 | July 1, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

If the mob charges are true (a big if of course), the ad is a warning to banqueters at Heorot Hall of a greedily loping monster. Not an example of negative campaigning.

Posted by: Martial | July 1, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Why must your articles always consist of pessimist-political agenda's? Anyone care to give this guy some of their antidepressant meds?

Posted by: dove369 | July 1, 2010 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Why must your articles only consist of pessimistic-political agenda's? Anyone care to give this guy some of their antidepressant meds?

Posted by: dove369 | July 1, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

"The 10 nastiest Senate races.”

The common thread is they ALL involved republikans... the nastiest of nasty’s...

Posted by: 4Jaxon | July 1, 2010 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Yes, it's clear that campaign season is upon us. The attack ads have started and so have the articles/commentaries like this one that focus on which candidate hit the hardest rather than on which candidate, if any, is telling the truth.

I suspect that the only meaningful story about negative political ads that will emerge from this election cycle was one the national media completely ignored in New Mexico in May.

When two candidates in the GOP primary for governor found themselves in a very close race in May, they both did the predictable thing: each rolled out an ugly negative ad about the other. The NM news media also did the predictable thing: reporters breathlessly repeated each candidate's negative claims about the other without bothering to investigate the veracity of those claims

Then the unexpected happened. The Chairman of the NM Republican Party, Harvey Yates, convened a panel to examine the claims each candidate had made in their respective ads. When the committee finished its review, the Chairman called a press conference and disclosed the committee's findings. One candidate's ad, he said, was factual; the other's was not. Lying in a campaign ad, he said,is behavior that neither political party should tolerate.

NM voters agreed with the GOP Chairman. The liar lost by a hefty margin two weeks later.

Imagine, Chris, what the political season would be like if political reporters would follow Harvey Yates lead? He didn't see two candidates' negative ads and simply wonder if they were the nastiest examples of political ads he'd seen during the past decade. He zeroed in on what matters (i.e. were the charges in either ad true) and told NM voters something they actually needed to know.

Posted by: exco | July 1, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Ah, memories. A good memory trip through the political sewer. I'd add one race from my childhood--Steve Symms vs. Frank Church. Sen. Church, aka the man who GAVE AWAY the Panama Canal. He lost in the 1980 landslide.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | July 1, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

"What has happened to the Senate, what has happened to the Senate, what has happened to the Senate ? ~ Honorable Senator Byrd

Posted by: truthhurts | July 1, 2010 8:36 PM | Report abuse

"America-hating right-winger willing to abandon millions of people to poverty, hunger, homelessness, no healthcare, etc?"

Let me translate back to non-doublespeak:

You have to work, you can't sit around and watch daytime TV. You're not entitled to anything.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | July 1, 2010 8:35 PM | Report abuse

"Let's get nasty" is so much more promising than "To the line!"

Posted by: margaretmeyers | July 1, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

OBAMA INVOKES TESLA, INVENTOR BEHIND MICROWAVE TORTURE TOWERS -- CODED WARNING TO U.S. FUSION CENTER FELONS?

• American University policy address referencing American immigrant inventor Nikola Tesla a harbinger of an Apollo Project-like push to develop "scalar wave electromagnetics" as a source of cheap, inexhaustible energy?

• Indication that Obama knows the technology is being used by the U.S. government to inflict silent torture and impairment on extrajudicially "targeted" citizens?

For the full story:

http://nowpublic.com/world/obama-invokes-tesla-inventor-behind-microwave-torture-towers OR
http://NowPublic.com/scrivener (lede articles and links therein)

Posted by: scrivener50 | July 1, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

You guys forgot Adams-Jefferson, man those guys really went at it.

Posted by: JRM2 | July 1, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

But why would a rational human being vote for an America-hating right-winger willing to abandon millions of people to poverty, hunger, homelessness, no healthcare, etc?

We wouldn't have all these problems if we had avoided the trap of voting for right-wingers in the past 40 years. They are doomed to repeat their history and make all of us suffer along with them.

When was the last time a right-winger actually suggested a solution to a problem? When did a right-wing idea actually work? The GOP has a long history of failure and repeating those same failures on a larger scale with every new iteration of their attacks on American workers, values and ideals. They would sell their own souls for a warm handgun and someone to blame everything on.

Now that they have dragged us into the beginnings of the next Great Depression they ARE armed and looking for scapegoats. I offer up three to blame - Reagan, Gingrich and the meat puppet known as 43.

Posted by: BigTrees | July 1, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

In America its the money that talks.
If you got money,you can get elected.Even if you know nothing.
All Americans are corrupt.

Posted by: captgrumpy | July 1, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Boxer versus Fiorina. I'm sure the wigs will fly on this one before it's over. I think the race should be settled in a mud wrestling ring.

Posted by: kenpasadena | July 1, 2010 7:04 PM | Report abuse

"I still go with the Bush v McCain race for the republican primary in 2000..."
Posted by: barferio | July 1, 2010 6:31 PM

I agree. I lost all respect for McCain afterward, who wanted to be president so badly, that he spent the period from 2001-2009 kissing Bush's buttocks in spite of the fact that Bush, a wartime desertor, successfully painted McCain as unworthy of the presidency.

Posted by: jjedif | July 1, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Johnson-O'Daniel?

Posted by: jrc1234 | July 1, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

What about Nixon-Gahagan Douglas?

Posted by: jrc1234 | July 1, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

What about Nixon-Gahagan Douglas?

Posted by: jrc1234 | July 1, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

I still go with the Bush v McCain race for the republican primary in 2000. Remember what Karl Rove and friends did to McCain?
That whisper campaign, those robo-calls ...

Among the rumors circulated against McCain in 2000 in South Carolina was that his adopted Bangladeshi daughter was actually black, that McCain was both gay and cheated on his wife, and that his wife Cindy was a drug addict.”


Rove flushed the republican party principles down the nastiest toilet he could find, and it has stayed there ever since.

Of course the democrats, not wanting to let a "good thing" go by unused, have been swimming in this same toilet since shortly after they discovered it.

Posted by: barferio | July 1, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Linda Chavez - Barbara Milulski 1986

Posted by: mattfugazi | July 1, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

2010 FY- $ILLEGAL WAR & DISASTER $SPENDING!? - Just heard that goof-ball Traitor Stenny-the-Hoyer. - Sen HOYER is the very one whom destroyed the ASBESTOS FUND to help deserving U.S. CITIZENS,- Severely Injured, Maimed, & Killed by ASBESTOS Criminal Corporations!!! -- Anything this HOYER syas can NEVER be believed - period!! HOYER is a TRAITOR to the U.S. CITIZNES,- and a $PAID-OFF Crony of Negigent Criminal "ASBESTOS" CORPsters!!! -- Let HOYER $foot-the-bill since He got So $RICH from Bribes from the ASBESTOS CRIMINALS!!! -- CONGRESS has become TRAITORS!!! -- Where is the Just Compensation for the ABESTOSIS VICTIMS? - Where CONGRESS? -- First things First CONGRESS!!!

Posted by: jward52 | July 1, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

babeNemo writes
"no mention of McCain vs Hayworth ...
it's getting a bit nasty with the ads."


It was mentioned earlier that Hayworth's support is dropping off. True?

And what's the deal on the Dem side? There were some stories about a prodigy assistant mayor taking a shot at the Dem nomination - true? Viable? Or is McCain going to win in a walk once he dispatches Hayworth?

Posted by: bsimon1 | July 1, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Leichtman


thanks for mentioning that you were violating your own boycott


just couldn't resist, huh?

Why is it that the leftists can not stick to their own boycott ???


It goes directly to their ability to keep their own word - it is a credibility issue - a trust issue.


.

Posted by: FlowersOfPeace | July 1, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

You would have to consider the 1950 Senate race in Maryland between Millard Tydings and John Marshall Butler. A few days before the election there was a flyer distributed containing a doctored photograph that appeared to show Tydings shaking hands with Earl Browder, then head of the US branch of the Communist Party.

After the election there was an investigation. The people who doctored the photograph and the owner of the company that distributed the flyer (who happened to live in our neighborhood) went to jail. If I recall correctly, Butler's campaign manager, one Jon M, Jonquil, was disbarred from ever running a campaign again in Maryland. However, John Marshall Butler, who won the election, was allowed to take his seat in the Senate.

Posted by: StanKlein | July 1, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse


no mention of McCain vs Hayworth in bum
&^%$ egypt down here.

it's getting a bit nasty with the ads.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | July 1, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

the Yarborough Senate race was 4 decades
ago,thought I should mention that before the routine hate comments are given in response, but still very significant in Texas
and US politics.

adios

Posted by: leichtman1 | July 1, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

1970 Lloyd Bentsen v Ralph Yarborough Primary.

mark likely knows the details of the dispicable commercials that Bentson ran, I will let him fill you in on the details and
otherwise maintain my boycott, but this election was very very significant in Texas
politics and those of us who lived in Austin at that time and part of the antiwar movement remember,and are still very sensitive about that election. That primary was really ugly and ended progressive politics here in Texas.

"In 1970, South Texan businessman and former Congressman Lloyd Bentsen, won a 54% to 46% upset victory against Yarborough in the Democratic primary, when Yarborough was focusing on the general election again against Bush. Bentsen played on voters' fears of societal breakdown and urban riots and made an issue of Yarborough's opposition to the Vietnam War. Bentsen said that Yarborough was a political antique. Said Bentsen, "It would be nice if Ralph Yarborough would vote for his state every once in a while." Bentsen went on to win the general election against George H.W. Bush"

Posted by: leichtman1 | July 1, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Say what you will about John Ashcroft, but when the 2000 election was over and he came up short in the vote count, he acceptead that he had lost and didn't try to stall the result with frivolous lawsuits.

Yes, he was a very socially conservative politician and a lightning rod for liberal criticism. But Ashcroft was first and foremost both a public servant and a gentleman.

Yes, he could play political hardball with the best of them and I can't think of too many things we agreed on about policy or politics. But he lived his principles and stood by his word. We could do with a few more people like that in politics today.

Posted by: Gallenod | July 1, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

There are a lot of really rough races in our history but the toughest one I remember is Norm Coleman and Paul Wellstone. Days before Wellstone died, Coleman challenged his patriotism for voting against the Iraq War. He spent a lot of time attacking Wellstone's character. Perhaps it's because Wellstone died that I remember that fight so well but it was a pretty terrible race to watch.

Coleman is such an opportunitist. When he was mayor of St. Paul, he was Mr. Workers Rights. When he switched parties, he became Mr. Business Republican.

Posted by: teoandchive1 | July 1, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

"DrainYou: Oh yeah? Well, according to Mark Kirk, Alexi Giannoulias made loans to convicted mobsters! Of course, that may or may not be true. It isn't CC's job to say whether these allegations are true. It's CC's job to repeat the allegations, and say that they're just as importaht as Kirk's "misrepresentation" (i.e., repeated lies) of his military service. That's what journalism is all about! Posted by: Blarg"

Note that Kirks lies are public record, and he is in deep doo-doo with DOD for campaigning illegally in uniform.

Kirk's claims about Giannoulis are the claims of a proven liar.

Let's see what the public makes of Kirk attacking a long ago banker. Then again let's see what current bankers decide to make of Kirk attacking bankers, even long ago ones like Giannoulis.

Posted by: ceflynline | July 1, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

The Robb North campaign was particularly nasty, with North, who should have felt thoroughly disgraced for among other things, taking part, with Richard Secord, in stealing $10- million that had been paid by Iran for hawk missiles, and refusing to give it back.

It hasn't, as of now, been returned to the Treasury, and it always seemed odd that the special account that Secord came up with for North to campaign on was, coincidentally, $10 million.

While North's Congressional immunity covered his theft by conversion confession to having stashed the $10 M in a Swiss bank, it obviously would not have covered his withdrawing it and using it to campaign with, so he MIGHT have justice waiting for him if he can't produce records of where the $10 million went.

Still, Ollie unctuous Marine hero act was about the most disgusting campaign I ever saw.

Posted by: ceflynline | July 1, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

1948: LBJ v. Coke Stevenson [D Primary].

from Wiki:

In 1948, he ran for the U.S. Senate. He led the Democratic primary with 39.7% to 33.7% against U.S. Representative Lyndon B. Johnson of Austin. In the hotly-contested runoff, Johnson won by only 87 votes out of 988,295 cast - one of the closest results in a senatorial election in U.S. history. [3] (As there was no effective Republican Party in Texas, winning the Democratic primary was all that mattered.) Stevenson challenged the result on quite apparent grounds of voter fraud. The Democratic State Central Committee sustained Johnson's victory by a 29-28 vote. The tie-breaking vote was cast by publisher Frank W. Mayborn of Temple, who rushed back to Texas from a business trip in Nashville, Tennessee, at the urging of Johnson's campaign manager, John B. Connally. Stevenson was granted an injunction by the federal district court, barring Johnson from the general election ballot. However, Supreme Court Associate Justice Hugo Black, sitting as a circuit court judge, ruled that the federal government lacked jurisdiction, and that the question was for the Central Committee to decide. He ordered the injunction stayed, and his ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | July 1, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

DrainYou: Oh yeah? Well, according to Mark Kirk, Alexi Giannoulias made loans to convicted mobsters! Of course, that may or may not be true. It isn't CC's job to say whether these allegations are true. It's CC's job to repeat the allegations, and say that they're just as importaht as Kirk's "misrepresentation" (i.e., repeated lies) of his military service. That's what journalism is all about!

Posted by: Blarg | July 1, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

For those keeping score, subjects Republican Mark "Pinocchio" Kirk wants to avoid right now like the plague are: the naval intelligence officer of the year award that he didn't receive, the Pentagon war room that he didn't command, the fire he didn't come under while in Iraq, Kosovo or Kandahar, Desert Storm that he didn't serve in, Operation Iraqi Freedom that he didn't serve in, the nursery school where he didn't teach and where he didn't have students bringing guns to class ...

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/17/us/politics/17kirk.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/19/us/politics/19kirk.html


Kirk has no business holding public office anymore. He needs to resign. Kirk has had to walk his military resume back about eight times already, it is virtually all he can claim as an accomplishment. The man is an untrustworthy weasel and a serial liar.

Kirk’s military exaggerations go way beyond Blumenthal misstating “during” versus “in” once in 2008 – Kirk’s is a pattern of exaggeration and overselling his qualifications from his first campaign ad for Congress to the present day. Kirk basically introduced himself to the wider Illinois electorate with a series of lies. He went hard right on issues from his prior positions in the GOP primary, and he’s done his best to not say anything on the issues since. Now that his lies have been revealed, he quite literally has nothing to say to the general electorate.

Posted by: DrainYou | July 1, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I would argue that Ashcroft's attacks on Carnahan did not end with Mel Carnahan's death. Instead, Ashcroft changed focus and attacked Jean Carnahan for lacking experience.

Posted by: philgirl | July 1, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Politics can always be counted on to attract those who offer little service and demand huge recompense for their good hearts. Both parties should be congratulated for trolling the gutters so successfully.

Voting against every incumbent in every election is called the public imposing term limits. Or did you think Congress was gonna do that?
Just dump the bums.

Posted by: bgreen2224 | July 1, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

You forgot New Jersey in 1996! Toricelli vs Zimmer was a hummdinger!

Posted by: RussellNewYork | July 1, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

You forgot New Jersey in 1996! Toricelli vs Zimmer was a hummdinger!

Posted by: RussellNewYork | July 1, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

North Carolina and Jesse Helms take it, although every modern republican engages in the same tactics.

You are wrong about New York. Nastiness is measured against Rudy Guiliani, who became an icon of it here.

Posted by: drindl | July 1, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

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