The campaign season was rocked this weekend when Senate hopeful Jack Conway (D) unveiled an ad raising questions about the sincerity of his opponent Rand Paul’s faith in the deeply Christian state of Kentucky.
The ad quickly became the most contentious of the cycle. On Sunday, the two met for their second-to-last scheduled debate, which ended with Paul refusing to shake Conway’s hand and threatening to skip their final encounter.
As is common when Democrats punch below the belt, the episode inspired an earnest round of handwringing among party members and progressive commentators, some of whom went to go so far as to call Conway’s segment “illiberal” and “despicable.”
Looking back on the past several weeks, though, there have been a number of ads (both Democratic and Republican) that are — pick your adjective — harsher, sleazier, bolder and more damning. Here are our top six.
Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-LA) has only one hope of defeating Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) this November: reminding (or informing) voters of Vitter’s scandal-laden past. To that effect, he ran a two minute ad on Louisiana cable, which included a “crime scene” re-enactment of Vitter’s liaison with a prostitute.
The ad doesn’t fudge the facts…but at the same time it does include audio of a prostitute describing her liaison with the distinguished senator from Louisiana.
Perhaps sensing danger, Vitter hit back with this tasteless ad featuring actors playing illegal immigrants, sneaking into the country to a parade-like reception and a check straight from hardworking American taxpayers.
As far as recreating crime scenes go, let’s call this one much less on the up-and-up than Melancon’s segment, even if none of the actors portray prostitutes.
The TPM Poll Average gives Vitter a 47.6-36.6 lead over Melancon.
This one partially backfired. On the one hand, Grayson ultimately acknowledged that the ad went too far. On the other, he did manage to dramatize his opponents extremely conservative religious beliefs. The problem: in the segment, team Grayson took audio of Webster’s words out of context. Webster did not say that “wives [should] submit yourself to your own husband.” But though his years-long affiliation with the Institute for Basic Life Principles would suggest that Webster does have out-of-the-mainstream views of the role of women, Grayson took plenty of heat for the sleight of hand.
Sharron Angle Accuses Harry Reid Of Using Tax Dollars To Buy Viagra For Sex Offenders
This one’s all kinds of confusing. Back during the health care reform debate, Republicans tried to derail the legislation by throwing all kinds of extraneous amendments at it. The goal was (basically) to get Democrats tied in knots trying to get the House and Senate bills to match. The implicit threat behind these amendments was that they were so unobjectionable that they could be dangerous to vote against, come campaign season.
One of those amendments, sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) would have banned sex offenders from receiving federal subsidies to buy health insurance that covers Viagra. All Democrats voted against it — not because they disagreed in principle, but because they were trying to streamline the passage of health reform after a brutal year. Fast forward several months, and Sharron Angle not only threw the vote back in Harry Reid’s face, but she badly distorted the nature of the amendment.
“Reid actually voted to use taxpayer dollars to pay for Viagra for convicted child molesters and sex offenders.”
Renee Ellmers Links Bob Etheridge To ‘Ground Zero Victory Mosque’
Jack Conway will have to burrow a lot deeper into the compost if he’s going to match this segment. In it, North Carolina Congressional hopeful Renee Ellmers (R) ties her opponent, Rep. Bob Etheridge, to the “Ground Zero Mosque” — which she refers to in the ad as a ‘victory mosque.’
The segment basically uses the term ‘Muslim’ and ‘terrorists’ and ‘they’ interchangeably. Give it a gander.
The facts are not really in dispute here. Years of official documents and news reports show conclusively that Massachusetts Republican Congressional candidate, and former cop, Jeff Perry (R) was the supervising officer of a policeman who more than once violated a teenage girl during a strip search.
That policeman served time in jail, and Perry quickly disappeared from the force. Now he’s running for an open House seat against Bill Keating, and has to deal with that past. “Imagine your teenage daughter illegally strip-searched by police,” the ad says. “It happened repeatedly in Wareham [MA]. Jeff Perry was the supervising officer at the scene during one assault. Another assault he just tried to explain away. Several months later, Perry suddenly resigned from the force. Now he’s running for Congress, but the past is haunting him, including the father of a 14 year old victim who says ‘there’s nowhere he should run except out of town.’”
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.