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The Best Senate Ads

Earlier this week, we listed our favorite ads from the presidential campaign that was.

Today we tackle the best of the best from the Senate races.

Our picks are meant as a conversation starter so feel free to agree or disagree with us in the comment section below.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, "Rocking Chairs": Rarely does a single television ad change the direction of a race. This one did. Run by the DSCC independent expenditure arm in early August, the ad, which features two older men sitting on rocking chairs and debating Dole's lack of effectiveness and support of President Bush, framed Dole as changed and out of touch -- the narrative that ultimately beat her. This, to our mind, was the single most effective ad run in any Senate race in the country.

Freedom's Watch, "Peace Bus": The idea of a Department of Peace has long been a pet project of Congressional liberals but had never been used to such devastating effectiveness before this Freedom's Watch ad slamming Rep. Mark Udall for his vote in favor of it. The aging hippie narrator was a nice touch but the piece de resistance was the smoke-filled "peace van."

Tom Udall, "Humbled": The luxury of being a heavy favorite in an open seat race is that you are freed from hammering your opponent and can instead focus on positive accomplishments. This ad, which is told by a disabled Iraq war vet, is an incredibly powerful testament to Udall's work on behalf of returning veterans.

Norm Coleman, "Angry Al": In a race that started nasty and just went downhill from there, this ad stood out for its stirring use of comedian Al Franken's words against him. Franken spent much of the last two years seeking to put controversial statements he had made in this past behind him -- reassuring voters that he was serious about serving in the Senate. This ad put all those doubts about Franken back on the table in a visually compelling way.

Joe Biden, "Kitchen Table": While the national media focused on Biden's vice presidential bid, his own longtime ad guy -- Joe Slade White -- was crafting this terrific black and white ad centered on Biden's daily train trip to and from Washington. "Each night riding home on the train, seeing the lights in the houses, he knows the conversations mothers and father are having around the kitchen table," says the ad's narrator. Powerful stuff.

Jim Inhofe, "One Man in America": There was a time when national Democrats thought they might be able to knock off Inhofe -- a man who even his allies acknowledge is rough around the edges and, at time, hard to like. But, this ad helped take Inhofe's supposed weaknesses -- being stubborn and hard headed -- and turn them into positives, noting that he had accomplished positive things for the state that many people said couldn't be done. And, by the way, Inhofe won reelection with 57 percent.

John Kerry, "Sean Bannon": This ad, run by Kerry in his non-competitive reelection race, shows how much a gifted media consultant can do in the space of 60 seconds. We are introduced to Sean Bannon, a wounded Iraq war vet, who tells the story of meeting Kerry while recovering and asking to receive his Purple Heart at Fenway Park. Cut to the footage of the day when that wish came to pass. A wonderful example of a positive ad designed to remind voters why they sent Kerry to Washington.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 7, 2008; 1:03 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Next: Obama's First Press Conference: Mission Accomplished?


I agree with kawilson69 that "Humbled" was the best of these ads. And "humbled" was the best single word; when Udall says it, the tears start flowing. The voice synthesizer lets you know that this is a different kind of ad, and when the vet mouths "Thank you" it is astonishing -- but "humbled" seals the deal.

Posted by: drrico | November 11, 2008 5:35 PM | Report abuse

I was pretty suprised to find those who orchestrated the crash of our housing and banking markets are granted jobs. Maybe Bush didn't do it after all.

I was on the net looking up Biden's historical work and Irish roots, and ran into this.

It is amazing how many people Obama knows.

(snip)Just days after his election, US president-elect Barack Obama landed in hot water over his previous involvement in Northern Ireland issues.

A photograph emerged of him with IRA fugitive Rita O’Hare, who is wanted for attempted murder, and Sinn Fein boss Gerry Adams.

The DUP said it will give the man chosen as America’s first black president “the benefit of the doubt” over the photo.

Stormont junior minister Jeffrey Donaldson warned that Mr Obama would have to consider such photo opportunities carefully now he is in such a position of authority.

“I do hope that the president-elect will recognise that he must not be partisan in his approach to Northern Ireland,” he said.

“I think being photographed with someone like Rita O'Hare demonstrates a lapse of judgment at that time, but hope in his new role these type of mistakes will not be made in the future.”

She remains officially at large after fleeing charges of the attempted murder of a soldier in Belfast in 1971. She was shot and seriously wounded in the incident. (snip)
The Belfast Telegraph (Sunday edition) ran an article called:
Number two Biden has a history over Irish debate

Posted by: dottydo | November 10, 2008 9:31 PM | Report abuse

"Freedom's Watch" may have had fun with their ad slamming a Department of Peace, but it's a damn good idea. Secretaries of State have too many other goals to be able to focus sufficiently on the promotion of peace.

Posted by: newageblues | November 10, 2008 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Indications are that Huckabee may be getting ready to announce that he plans to run in 2012, according to
They have a article there about Huckabees 2012 Campaign Website. Hopefully the GOP will wise up and get behind the only GOP contender that appeals to the working class. Huckabee is awesome. Came from Working Class Roots did a great Job in Arkensaw. I myself an independant couldnt see voting for any other GOP contender. Besides after watching the video Huckabee Hearts Obama on Youtube. Why would I want to vote anyother way.!!!

Posted by: pastor123 | November 9, 2008 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Hey Chris,

The DSCC "Rocking Chair" is almost exactly like an ad we ran in the 2004 SC Senate race for Jim DeMint. (You can see it at our website

Maybe next cycle the DSCC can come up with their own ideas. Maybe I should send them the bill.

At least we already know what they'll do next time.

Vinny Minchillo
Creative Director
Scott Howell & Company

Posted by: vinnyminchillo | November 8, 2008 6:47 PM | Report abuse





During the campaign everyone said that if we elected a black person to be President all the world's problems would be solved - all the nations of the world would have peace because we did that - the Middle East would have peace because we did that - and everything would be great.

What happened?

Why didn't all the wars end immediately?

Why isn't the economy back?

Why isn't everyone singing Kum-ba-ya ???





Posted by: 37thOSt | November 8, 2008 5:08 PM | Report abuse

...and doesn't Elizabeth Dole's last-week-desperation "There is no God!" ad deserve a mention here? Seems obvious that it was the factor that completely nailed down the election...for Dole's opponent, Kay Hagen!

Posted by: malis | November 8, 2008 8:15 AM | Report abuse

CC, the Colorado "Peace Van" ad was funny, in the same way a very occasional rerun of "That 70s Show" is funny (would have been even better had they gotten a better Tommy Chong impersonator).

It was the exact opposite, however, of "devastating effectiveness"'s pretty obvious it was completely ineffective if the purpose was to change anyone's vote. It's over-the-top cartoonishness meant it was meaningful only to the ultra-right who were already voting for Schaffer.

The Colorado R's problem was their ultra-right religious zealot candidate, not a lack of effective advertising. And now we find the much better R candidate (Scott Mcinnis, moderate Western Slope Congressman) was open to a run, but was frozen out by Sen. John Ensign, head of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, in favor of Ensign's old Congressional roommate, Bob Schaffer!

Just one more in a long line of mistakes by the shoot-yourself-in-the-foot gang

Posted by: malis | November 8, 2008 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Humbled is hands down the best of the batch. I agree that the most effective was the Elizabeth Dole ad, the first time I saw it... and living in NC, I saw it a lot, I knew it would be a game changer

Posted by: kawilson69 | November 7, 2008 10:04 PM | Report abuse


Is that for folks who may not know?

Would JFK ever have hung such a sign?

OMG, who's advising him?

STRIKE THE SIGN NOW, before it's the punchline!

Who's got Axelrod's Blackberry number?

Posted by: scrivener50 | November 7, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

This wasn't a Senate ad but I liked it. Saw it all over Florida about 10 days before the election.

Posted by: toritto | November 7, 2008 2:35 PM | Report abuse

wpost4112, I don't know if you can conclude 'angry al' really benefitted al. He's still down by 238 +/- votes. Recount starts in a week...

Posted by: bsimon1 |


It's just a personal thing...I thought it made Al look human...angry but human...and thus undercut the intent of the ad. Made Norm seem priggish. Made Franken seem like someone who would fight for his beliefs. Passion is good.

That the race is tighter than a tic on a moose sac is surprising enough. Never thought Franken would get that close.

Posted by: wpost4112 | November 7, 2008 2:32 PM | Report abuse

If the hard right wants the GOP to remain the party of the angry white man, well so be it. Liberals want you to do that as well!

This election the GOP became the party of the old, undereducated, rural angry white voter. This group is becoming a smaller and smaller percentage of the electorate. It became the party of the Southern core of the Confederacy and states like Wyoming where nobody lives. It lost in every major metropolitan area. It lost affluent diverse suburbs in Philadelphia, Charlotte, Raleigh, Fairfax and Northern Virginia, Miami and Tampa, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Seattle and Minneapolis, Alberquerque and Las Vegas . It even lost Dallas and Houston. It lost hispanic voters by 2 to l. It lost virtually 100% of the black vote. It lost the "youth" vote 2 to 1. The Democrats won every growing demographic.

There is no longer a Representative in the House from all of New England including the bastions of Republicanism in Maine and New Hampshire There are only three from New York and only one of those is urban. It will be very possible to flip Arizona itself in the next Presidential election.

Make Pallin the leader of your party! Please!!

The GOP needs to decide what it is FOR......calling the opposition names ain't gonna cut it as "policy". Continuing to emphasize the culture wars will lead to a smaller, waiting for the rapture, lily-white regional Southern party. Look at the faces of the new America........the demographics are against you. :-)

Posted by: toritto | November 7, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

wpost4112, I don't know if you can conclude 'angry al' really benefitted al. He's still down by 238 +/- votes. Recount starts in a week...

Posted by: bsimon1 | November 7, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

I wish I could find the DNC's "Chameleon" ad against John Kennedy in the Louisiana race.

Posted by: DDAWD | November 7, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Angry Al was the best ad to actually got more votes for the guy the ad was supposed to trash.


Posted by: wpost4112 | November 7, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

'The aging hippie narrator was a nice touch but the piece de resistance was the smoke-filled "peace van."

What a juvenile piece of cr*p that is -- dated, cliched, tedious, mediocre -- so very 1970. I imagine you like beer commercials featuring women mud wrestling too, CC...

Posted by: drindlx | November 7, 2008 1:52 PM | Report abuse

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