The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Vote for me, because puppies (Video)

The race for Gabby Giffords's old House seat has been a mean one. Giffords's PAC, Americans for Responsible Solutions, has run attack ads against Republican candidate Martha McSally's position on background checks, and outside groups have spent a total of nearly $4 million against her. Her opponent, Democratic Rep. Ron Barber, has had more than $3 million spent opposing him.

McSally is now trying to counter all the negativity with a light-hearted ad, seeking paint the attacks as overblown and the candidate as actually a pretty nice person.

She loves apple pie and puppies, you see.

If this ad feels awful familiar, that would be because it's something of a copycat. Michael Steele had the same idea eight years ago when he was running for a Senate seat in Maryland -- although carbon dating would probably identify the ad as a relic of the '80s or '90s. Steele was sick of all those campaign ads too -- and he loved/loves puppies!

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee quickly responded with their own ad, saying that "Michael Steele likes puppies, but he loves George W. Bush." Steele did not win his election.

Other candidates trying to empathize with voters forced to watch campaign ads until their belief in democracy dries up have used other universal symbols for calm in ads.

Like House candidate Richard Tisei's ad from 2012 -- the Massachusetts Republican is running again this year -- which sounds like one of those expensive alarm clocks with the nature noises instead of hell beeps.

Update: Inevitably, the very familiar ad trope used by Martha McSally resulted in a very familiar rejoinder from her opponent, Ron Barber.