The Fix campaign superlatives (aka The Fixies) — are here!

November 13, 2012

Ever wonder why there isn't a televised awards show for the best (and worst) in politics every election? Us too. (There are award shows for everything now; country music seems to have a show honoring its achievements weekly.)

Alas, the Fix isn't (yet) an all-powerful force in the media world and so we can't just snap our fingers and open up some time on a cable channel for the Fixies. (We are open to a name change but it does kind of have a ring to it, does it not?)

So, we are doing the next best thing. Over the next week, we will be doling out our awards for the campaign that was -- from best/worst candidate to biggest surprise of the election and more!

We kick off the Fixies with our award for the best television ad of the campaign. We received tons of submissions via Twitter and Facebook as well as from the consultants who made the ads and put our collective brains to sort through them.

In the end, one stood out: An ad run by President Obama that featured audio of Mitt Romney singing "America the Beautiful" while a series of visuals blasting Romney's record in government (and the private sector) when it came to protecting workers.

Here's the ad, which was called "Firms":

What the ad did so well is frame Romney's rhetoric on jobs with his record on jobs in a way that stood out from all of the other noise from both sides on the issue.  

If half (or more) of the battle in making good ads is finding a way to make them look or sound different from everything else that is out there, the Obama media team hit the sweet spot with this one. (The Democratic base also loved it because it made Romney look, well, foolish.) And the Obama campaign knew they had found something special, running the ad relentlessly in swing states.

If you remember one ad from the general election campaign, it's almost certainly this one. And, in a race where the two sides spent hundreds of millions of dollars on TV in an attempt to win the most important job in the country, that makes "Firms" the Fixie winner for best political ad.

Now, there were thousands upon thousands of other ads run in Senate, House and gubernatorial races around the country too -- and the Fix posse has picked a few standouts from that group for honorable mention.

* Heidi Heitkamp, "Batting Cages".

One of the most amazing results on election day (at least for us) was that former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp (D) won an open seat in North Dakota despite the fact that President Obama won just  39 percent of the vote in the state.  Heitkamp's huge overperformance was built on her quality as a candidate and the quality of her TV ads, which rooted her in North Dakota and made it hard for Republicans to cast her as a typical liberal. Our favorite of Heitkamp's ads, which were made by Mark Putnam, was "Batting  Cages".

* Claire McCaskill, "Three of a kind, one in the same".

McCaskill, a Missouri Democratic Senator, was in deep political trouble this summer -- running for re-election in a state that had moved strongly toward Republicans. Sensing her vulnerability, McCaskill took a calculated risk: she spent almost $2 million on ads touting the conservative credentials of Rep. Todd Akin, one of three Republicans competing for the right to challenge her in the fall. Akin, who was badly underfunded, wound up winning the primary and immediately committed an act of political hari-kari by using the words "legitimate rape" in a local television interview.  While not even McCaskill and her two ad gurus -- David Dixon and Rich Davis -- could have predicted Akin would be so very bad, they deserve major credit for taking the gamble in the first place.

* Ted Yoho, "Pigs".

You might have forgotten about Yoho since he won an upset primary victory over Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) over the summer, but this ad -- produced by Dresner Wickers Barber Sanders -- is an absolute keeper. Not only did it reinforce Yoho's message as a political outsider in a decidedly memorable way, but the ad also featured professional wrestler Dustin Rhodes aka "Goldust". (And, yes, Dustin Rhodes is the son of Dusty "The American Dream" Rhodes.)  Well done, Yoho, well done.

And then there was the "Smoking Man" ad from Herman Cain's presidential campaign. The ad, which featured a 40-second testimonial from Cain campaign manager Mark Block followed by 15 seconds of Block smoking (yes, that really happened), made almost no sense but became a viral video sensation. Let's call it the best bad ad of the 2012 campaign. 

Tomorrow: The worst ads of 2012!

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Aaron Blake | November 13, 2012