Monday, November 17, 2008

Best of the House

Recently, the Fix offered up its favorite ads from this year’s House races.

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."

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