If the Republican National Committee wanted a reasoned and tempered political advertisement, perhaps it shouldn't have asked legendary spoof director David Zucker to shoot the ad. Zucker, who directed Airplane! along with several Naked Gun films and the Scary Movie series, filmed two ads at the behest of GOP officials.
Zucker's product surprised Republicans for its no-holds-barred attacks on Democrats. In one, Zucker depicts terrorists pulling out a guitar and singing "Kumbaya" to distract Clinton-era Secretary of State Madeline Albright's attention from suicide bombers outside. "Making nice to our enemies will not make them nice to us," the narrator says.
In another, Zucker spoofs tax-and-spend liberals by imagining a world where you could see all the ways Democrats would like to tax citizens. Zucker's gag-a-minute approach comes alive in a hospital delivery room where a black-suited taxman wrestles dollar bills away from the doctor and even the just-born baby. "If Democrats take over Congress, they will raise taxes by $2.4 trillion to keep up with their reckless spending. . . . Maybe the question isn't, can you afford more of this, but can you afford more of them?" the narrator asks as a group of chanting taxmen march in lockstep toward the camera.
Neither of Zucker's ads got any airtime leading up to the 2006 midterm elections. According to the Drudge Report, RNC officials thought the ads were too hot for television. Internet surfers have watched both ads at YouTube.com.
The RNC did put on the airwaves a sarcastic attack on Tennessee Democratic Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. The ad uses a series of mock man-on-the-street interviews highlighted by comments such as, "Harold Ford looks nice. Isn't that enough?" and "Canada can take care of North Korea. They're not busy." But when the advertisement took two jabs at Ford for attending the Playboy party during the 2005 Super Bowl weekend, some decried the ad as racist-it showed Ford, who is black, with white women-and the RNC deleted the party scenes.
In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry used a knock-off of the Bud Light "Real Men of Genius" ad series for a radio campaign. In the ads, Perry celebrates Democratic opponent Chris Bell as "Mr. way-too-liberal-for-Texas" guy. "This ain't Tax-achusetts," the sarcastic announcer reminds. "So wear your fancy beret with pride, Congressman Bell, because liberals everywhere salute you."
The ad debate became especially heated in Missouri, where Parkinson's-afflicted actor Michael J. Fox cut a dramatic appeal for voters to choose Democratic Senate challenger Claire McCaskill because of her stance on embryonic stem-cell research. Fox-who appears smartly dressed and seated, though swaying back and forth-tells viewers that incumbent Sen. Jim Talent even wanted to "criminalize the science that gives us a chance for hope." The ad probably became the most-seen of this election cycle, with over 2 million views on YouTube and countless replays on television, as pundits tried to evaluate Rush Limbaugh's charge that Fox did not take his medication so that his condition would appear more heart-wrenching.
Missourians Against Human Cloning cut a response ad to Fox's, asking voters to reject a state constitutional amendment that would allow embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning. The informative ad lacks the emotional appeal of Fox's plea, but, with reasoned pleas by local professional athletes like Jeff Suppan, Mike Sweeney, and Kurt Warner, the anti-cloning group tried to employ the same sort star power.
In a bizarre twist, at least one professional athlete wants nothing to do with this campaign season. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees fired off an ultimatum to his estranged mother to stop running his image in her political advertisements as she runs for the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals. Brees has said that for the past six years he's had nothing to do with his mother and now certainly doesn't want to be co-opted into her political campaign.
Type Tennessee Republican Senate candidate Bob Corker's name into Google and the fourth result links to a news report originally printed in the Memphis Commercial Appeal that alleges the former Chattanooga mayor gave Delta Air Lines preferential treatment in a pension investment deal.
The story's prominence on the world's largest search engine is no accident: It's the project of legions of liberal bloggers led by MyDD.com author Chris Bowers. Talk radio might not be a liberal bastion, but Democrats know how to use the internet. Under Bowers, net-savvy Democrats manipulated search results for the names of 70 Republican candidates in the days leading up to the Nov. 7 election.
In an appeal to the liberal megablog DailyKos.com, Bowers asked for readers to help him "drive as many voters as possible toward the most damning, non-partisan article written on the Republican candidate."
The strategy, called "Googlebombing," is hardly new. Bloggers from across the political spectrum employed Googlebombs in 2004. Type in "miserable failure" and Google still spits back a link to the official White House biography of President George W. Bush. The No. 2 entry under "miserable failure" links to former President Jimmy Carter's biography. Type in "waffles" and Google will give you a link to John Kerry's official website.
Googlebombing works because of the way Google and other search engines index the internet. When a blogger links certain words to a website, Google takes notice. If enough people link the same words to the same website, the results start crawling up Google's search pages.
Google says it doesn't condone the practice of manipulating search results, but says it is reluctant to alter search results manually. Google's hands-off approach seems to have only emboldened web-savvy political bloggers. "If you don't have the guts to do something this minor in a campaign, then I'm not sure if politics is for you," wrote Bowers in response to a commenter's charge that Googlebombing is unethical.
At least some candidates still want George W. Bush around. With Bush's approval ratings at 40 percent or lower, many candidates have tried to distance themselves from the Republican president during the midterm race.
But some candidates like Shelley Sekula-Gibbs aren't about to turn down a stump visit by a sitting president. She can use all the help she can get: Running in disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's Texas district, Sekula-Gibbs isn't even officially on the ballot. She'll need suburban Houston voters to write her name in-all 18 letters. In an Oct. 30 rally in Sugar Land, Texas, Bush told a big crowd to "bring your pencil."
In the closing weeks of campaigning, Bush has mainly toured red states in an attempt to help preserve the Republican majority in Congress. By Election Day, he'll have visited:
- Iowa to stump for gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle and Republican congressional candidate Jim Lamberti.
- Georgia, where Bush campaigned and raised money for Republican congressional challengers-Max Burns and Mac Collins-who have picked up steam against Democratic incumbents.
- Indiana, where he packed an estimated 4,000 into a high-school gym to support incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Sodrel. Bush offered to help the flagging campaign of Rep. John Hostettler, who declined the offer, telling the Evansville Courier and Press, "We just decided, just said, 'Just stay in Washington.'"
- Montana to help prop up Republican Sen. Conrad Burns, who was trailing Democratic challenger Jon Tester in polls.