Worst political ad of 2012: Todd Akin

November 15, 2012

On Tuesday we highlighted the best political ad of the 2012 election cycle.

Today, we have a little more fun and bring you the worst of the worst.

And perhaps it should be no surprise that the worst comes from the most colossally bad major campaign of the 2012 general election, Missouri GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin.

Akin's campaign provided us with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to bad ads, including one ad (from before Akin's "legitimate rape" comment) that we labeled the worst to date, and another ad in which a random Russian woman tries to give Akin some backup on women's rights (the ad has since been removed from Akin's YouTube channel).

But the winner for worst ad has to be -- repeat has to be -- Akin's apology ad after his comments on rape and pregnancy.

The stripped down ad features Akin speaking directly to the camera in his awkward manner. He closes with this: "The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness.”

Voters clearly did not forgive Akin, who lost by 16 points -- even more than polling had suggested.

The ad seems to try and dismiss Akin's words as a slip of the tongue rather than a fringe theory about women, and the moment, in our minds, deserved significantly more contrition. We're not sure anything would have saved Akin, but his apology ad didn't come close and it really summed up his problems as a candidate.

Honorable mention:

* Michigan GOP Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra: "Debbie Spend-It-Now"

This ad was run during the Super Bowl and gave us the rare trifecta of badness. It was widely decried as racially insensitive for the star's broken English, it didn't even fire up the GOP base enough to fill Hoekstra's campaign coffers for his race against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and the star of the ad later apologized for her role in it. Hoekstra's campaign can still claim the ad helped him win the primary, but it clearly marginalized him as a legitimate challenger to Stabenow, who won by 21 points -- her biggest win ever.

* Priorities USA Action: "Understands"

This is the pro-Obama super PAC ad featuring Joe Soptic, a former employee of a steel plant that Bain Capital shut down, in which Soptic suggests that Mitt Romney is to blame for his wife's death because his family didn't have health insurance when she fell ill. What's not said? His wife died five years after the plant closed and had her primary insurance from her own employer for another year or two after that. Also, Romney wasn't running Bain when the plant closed, because he was running the Salt Lake City Olympics. This ad was roundly decried as having gone too far, and both Obama's campaign and the White House distanced themselves from it. You could make the argument that all the chatter and re-playing of the ad drove home the attack on Romney as a corporate raider (and it was cheap; the ad barely even aired on TV), but there were many other ways to make that case, including a very good ad from Priorities USA called "Stage."

* Rick Perry: "Strong"

Perry's campaign was epically bad (spending more than $1,000 per vote!), and this ad really captures that. Struggling for traction in Iowa, the campaign launched an ad in which Perry said he would "end Obama's war on Christmas." Key moment: "Gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can't celebrate Christmas or pray in school." The ad was seen as a transparent and somewhat ham-handed effort to appeal to religious conservatives and spawned a cottage industry of parodies poking fun at Perry's "Brokeback Mountain"-esque jacket. It has been viewed 8.6 million times on YouTube, with 29 times as many "dislikes" as "likes."

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Sean Sullivan | November 15, 2012