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The Best Congressional Campaign Ads of 2016

Effective, funny or downright bizarre, these ads caught our attention

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Not all TV spots get good traction, especially during a presidential election year when the airwaves are saturated. And some ads that do get traction aren’t necessarily noticed for being effective political messages. It might be a quirky line or compelling messenger that gets an ad attention. Here, in no particular order, is a compilation of some of the House and Senate ads that stood out this year as particularly unique, funny or just bizarre. 

Jason Kander, “Background Checks”

In his race for Senate, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander made a splash with this ad in which he assembles an AR-15 blindfolded. Democrats saw it contributing to the case against incumbent Republican Sen. Roy Blunt for being a creature of Washington who hasn’t served in the military. Sensing its potency, both the Blunt campaign and the NRA quickly released response ads.

House Majority PAC, “Dixie”

Knocking off New Jersey Republican Scott Garrett has become a cause celebre for Democrats. No ad captures their efforts more than this spot from the House Majority PAC, which accuses Garrett of fitting rural Alabama more than northern New Jersey. 

Chuck Grassley, “Judge?”

In this spoof of the 1986 film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” actor Ben Stein calls out former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge’s name while text on screen cites meetings and debates she has missed. When Stein calls “Grassley?” the Republican senior senator from Iowa pipes up — off screen — “Here!” 


Mike Coffman, “Country First”

Vulnerable Colorado GOP Rep. Mike Coffman made news in August with this ad in which he says he doesn’t care for Donald Trump and “will stand up to him” if he’s president. His spot came out two months before the release of the 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording, and was one of the rare early instances of Republicans distancing themselves from Trump in paid media. 

John Kennedy, “The Conservative for Louisiana”

In this introductory spot for his Louisiana Senate bid, Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy shares what he believes in. It’s the punchline in this face-to-camera ad, though, that makes all 30 seconds worth watching. “I believe that love is the answer,” Kennedy says, “but you ought to own a handgun just in case.”

Darry Glenn, “Underdog”

Republican Darryl Glenn may not have much of a chance in Colorado’s Senate race, but the onetime collegiate powerlifter hits the gym to convince voters he’s underestimated. 

Hans Tanzler III, “Rawhide” 

Hans Tanzler III didn’t win the GOP primary for Florida’s 4th District, but his ads should win something. Most of them feature him on his ranch, and in this one, he’s riding a horse while carrying a rifle. Mounted on the horse, he pauses to deliver a message from “we the people” to President Obama and “his gang.” “Get out of our town,” Tanzler says.


Justin Fareed, “Next Generation Conservative”

Speaking of candidates awkwardly riding horses, Justin Fareed, the Republican nominee for California’s 44th District, gives Tanzler a run for his money. The former UCLA Bruins running back mounts a horse at the end of an introductory spot, and then closes by saying, “We’ll talk more later.”

 Claudia Tenney, “Let’s Get Moving”

This cycle has lacked a “Squeal” ad like Joni Ernst’s 2014 spot in her winning Iowa Senate race. But Claudia Tenney, the tea party Republican running for New York’s open 22nd District, might be doing the Iowa senator proud with this ad that features her riding a motorcycle. 

Jim Gray, “Wild Ass”

In his long-shot bid to unseat Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Democrat Jim Gray is calling attention to Paul’s policies in no uncertain terms.  


Terri Bonoff, “More Minnesota Nice”

In her uphill battle to take down Minnesota Rep. Erik Paulsen, Democratic state Sen. Terri Bonoff is making the case that the four-term GOP incumbent may be nice, but he’s just like Donald Trump on policy. In this ad, she tries to do that “nicely.”

Ron Johnson, “Outsiders”

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson goes after the lumberjack vote in this spot filmed with 7th District Rep. Sean Duffy. By the end, Johnson’s swapped his blue dress shirt for a plaid flannel. It’s a rare move for a sitting senator and a congressman in a safe district to cut an ad together, but the two Republicans may each stand to gain

Steve Lindbeck, “Two Years Ago”

In this powerful ad from Alaska Rep. Don Young’s Democratic opponent, a former Wasilla high school student describes Young’s comments to students at his high school several days after a fellow student committed suicide. 

Emily Cain, “Better” 

In this response ad to a National Republican Congressional Committee attack on her for proposed legislation to combat childhood obesity, Maine Democrat Emily Cain opens up about her own struggles with her weight. 

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