Election Day will soon be over. We're thankful for that, because — as much as we like politics around here — you can't turn on an electronic device of any kind these days without having your eyes and eardrums roundhouse-kicked by a political ad, most of them featuring some stuffed shirt calling another stuffed shirt everything but a child of God. After you've seen a couple thousand hours of those, they can wear pretty thin. Seriously, candidates: At this point in the race, do you really think talking about your mom wearing cardboard shoes growing up and claiming your opponent is personally spreading Ebola through South Arkansas like Johnny Pandemicseed is going to sway anybody to your side?
It may be a little late to tell you this, but we've watched all the political ads so you don't have to. Here are our awards for the best and worst of the season:
Worst extended metaphor
The College Republican National Committee's head-scratcher of a digital ad featuring a waaaay-overextended metaphor in which Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson are somehow represented by two wedding dresses, and the voters are represented as a bunch of wooden young actresses watching another wooden young actress try on the dresses, and the Mike Ross voter is somebody's clueless idiot mom, which of course makes the owner of the dress shop ... what? The invisible hand of the Free Market? Nancy Pelosi's stunt double? The Koch brothers in a pantsuit? Who knows? The only thing the ad is really proof of is what you already knew: Young Republicans are, in fact, the least funny people on any campus.
The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Rare Bird Award for positive political advertising
We actually have a winner this year! It's the spot by 2nd District Congressional candidate Patrick Henry Hays in which Hays, clad in Workin' Man duds, drives a barge pushboat and a tractor trailer rig, hangs off the side of a moving Caterpillar road grader and serves Blue Bell ice cream at a soda fountain while talking about the jobs that came to North Little Rock on his mayoral watch. No scary type fonts. No insinuations that his opponent is out to kill your children. Just a guy talking about the good things he did for his constituents while in office. Of course, shortly thereafter it was no more Mr. Nice Guy from Hays, as he went after Hill with ads stretching to connect him to disgraced former Treasurer Martha Shoffner, but it was nice while it lasted.
- BEST OF THE BUNCH: Pat Hays serves up Blue Bell ice cream.
Tom Cotton's TV spot, showing picturesque scenes of the Cotton family farm, in which he stated: "When President Obama hijacked the Farm Bill and turned it into a food stamp bill, with billions more in spending, I voted no." In fact, the Farm Bill has been heavily linked to food assistance for struggling Americans since 1973, long before Obama even thought about becoming the president of Republican nightmares. Cotton was the only member of the Arkansas congressional delegation to vote against the Farm Bill in January 2014, but it wasn't because Cotton was standing up to the bogeyman-in-chief. It's because Cotton and those who pull his strings would tell hungry poor folks to eat cake. With opponent Mark Pryor hammering him over the vote and desperate to distance himself from a move that could hurt him with the state's farmers, Cotton spun himself a whopper. Cotton's claim that Obama had somehow hacked the Farm Bill, leaving him no choice but to vote against it, was so egregious that it wound up on Politifact.com's list of the nine biggest lies of the 2014 election season.
Mark Pryor's ad — featuring "piano in an insane asylum" music, plentiful Shaky Cam, and news footage of dudes in hazmat suits scrubbing down streets — which sought to connect the Ebola outbreak to Tom Cotton's vote against funding pandemic response. "He was the only one to vote against Children's Hospital!" the narrator goes on to say. Which would lead any reasonable voter to wonder: Who is Tom Cotton, and why is he so intent on making blood shoot out of our tear ducts and giving us all superherpes? The best part of the ad, though, is at the end, when a comment about Cotton voting for tax cuts for billionaires is queued to footage of a 2006-ish Lincoln Town Car gliding up to a parked jet. Seriously, Pryor campaign: Do you really think the robber barons that Two-Gun Tommy owes his spurs to would let their silky pantaloons touch the seat of a non-Teutonic motorcar?
Weirdest name change
Perhaps taking a page from Bryant Mayor Jill Dabbs' efforts to have her name changed to "Republican" Jill Dabbs on the ballot, Republican congressional candidate Conrad "Connie" Reynolds changed his name to "Colonel Conrad Reynolds" (and yes, "Colonel" is apparently part of his legal name now) before the 2nd Congressional District primary last May. BONUS: Colonel Conrad Reynolds is —wait for it — a retired colonel in the U.S. Army, which means his full, honorary title is now apparently "Col. Colonel Conrad Reynolds." Paging Dr. Strangelove. Roger, Roger. What's your vector, Victor?
Most down-in-the-gutter, chickenshit, slimy, etc., etc.
While there were plenty of candidates for this one (as always), this year's prize goes to the anonymous mailer sent out in late September to residents of House District 35 against Democrat Clarke Tucker. Featuring a fake return address, a picture of a woman being menaced and a font that would best be called "Serial Killer Taunts the Police Serif," the flyer said, in part: "Why would Clarke Tucker defend a violent criminal for free who pled guilty to robbery and terroristic threatening? While on probation, that Tucker arranged, this same man beat a woman with a bottle. ... Is Clarke Tucker soft on violent crime?" If you know where this is going, raise your hand. That's right: Clarke Tucker, who is a lawyer, once served as the attorney for a man who shoplifted under $10 worth of stuff from Kmart — a man who, after avoiding being sentenced to death for shoplifting, was acquitted of a subsequent charge. Tucker's opponent, Republican Stacy Hurst, initially disavowed the attacks, before sending out her own mailer that largely repeated the claims of the first. So, good job, Hurst campaign/anonymous jerks! Not only are you helping make people more stupid with your head-injury-victim syntax, you're wiping your rump with the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of an attorney for everyone accused of a crime.
Wiggliest earworm/best use of unpaid intern labor
The radio jingle for Lackey Moody Jr., candidate for State House District 63, written and performed by his 10-year-old daughter, Kate, with guitar accompaniment. It goes: "Lackey Moody, Lackey Moody, Lackey Moooooody! Just vote for State House District 63! Lackey Mooooody! District 63! Lackey Moody, Lackey Moody, Lackey Moooooody! A great representative for District 63! I love the man dearly! He is my daddy, too!"
The Mike Huckabee Award for best use of outhouse, dirt floor, tarpaper shack or "We et nuttin' but poke salat and hardtack growin' up ..." qualifications for office
Tom Cotton's ad with his mom, Avis Cotton, in which he unpacks a bag of groceries in a kitchen before saying she grew up without indoor plumbing. Cotton uses the inevitable mental image of his mom hunkered in the Wind Box as a segue into: "Every vote I've cast and will cast on Social Security and Medicare protects and preserves benefits for seniors like mom." In fact, Cotton has repeatedly supported cutting benefits and raising the eligibility age for Social Security, and has generally been a fan of any policy that would help slash the social safety net to tatters. It's an ad whose script belongs in the john out back, next to the cobs.
Best evidence that you should never put your parents in political ads
Mike Ross' ad featuring his mom and dad, which shows exactly where his wax-dummy stiffness before the cameras comes from.
RUNNER-UP: Tom Cotton's ad in which he sits on the tailgate of a pickup truck, surrounded by lowing cattle, while his dad gripes at him like a hick version of Clint Eastwood in "Gran Torino."
- BOTTOM OF THE BARREL: Uncle Sam as never before.
The worst. Just ... the worst
The bizarre anti-Pryor web ad, paid for by "Generation Opportunity" (the most youthful of the numerous Astroturf groups backed by the Koch brothers), featuring a satanic-looking Uncle Sam with an enormous paper mache head throwing stacks of money slo-mo in a hospital room to a circa-1988 hip- hop beat before a card comes up that says: "Tell Mark Pryor: Stop supporting Obamacare." It was all part of one of the weirdest political ad campaigns in history, which also featured the creepy Uncle Sam (and we are not making this up) sneaking into a doctor's office and snapping on a glove to give a young man a prostate exam, and silently preparing to assault a terrified young woman with a speculum during her visit to the gynecologist. Both ads then encouraged young people to "opt out of Obamacare." Nothing like a few terrifying-clown rape threats to get young folks rushing away from affordable health care, we guess.
Best use of 'gobs'
The truly epic radio jingle fielded by State Senate District 19 candidate James McLean, which features multiple singers belting out: "James McLean! James McLean! For Arkansas state Senate! James McLean! James McLean! He's the man we need to win it! Can you save us from the brink? Quicker than a wink! Can you bring this county cash? Faster than a flash! Can you bring us new jobs? Gobs and gobs and gobs! Can you make our future sing? James McLean can do anything! James McLean, James McLean! For Arkansas state Senate! James McLean, James McLean! He's the man we need to win it! James McLean! James McLean! James McLeaaaaaaaaaaaaan!" While our recollection of the gobs-to-reality exchange rate is fairly rusty, "gobs and gobs and gobs" is a pretty big order, pal, not to mention the assurance that "he can do anything." You know that "anything" includes a pony in every backyard, solid gold hula-hoops for everyone in the district, and a cure for cancer in your first term, right? Hope you can deliver.
Best "I'm just like you poor saps!"
The weird jalopy-off that some Republican candidates got into to prove their alleged penny-pinching, broke-folks bona fides to the for-real broke folks they wanted to vote for them. Included were ads by congressional candidate French Hill (a millionaire banker married to a lawyer) featuring "Old Blue," a 1998 Volvo wagon, and an ad by gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson (a lawyer, former three-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives and former Drug Enforcement Agency director) in which he bragged that his truck had over 130,000 miles on it, while his wife's Chrysler had over 145,000. PREDICTION: By the next election cycle, we'll be seeing ads featuring a Republican gazillionaire swearing up and down his sole transpo to the gettin' place is a bicycle with no seat and with two flats. Built it himself. Didn't need no help from the gubmint!
Worst (literal) monkey business
The anti-Mark Pryor mailer, paid for by the Koch brothers' group Americans for Prosperity, which features a smiling monkey, a background of ripe bananas and a screaming headline that says the government spent $71,000 to study how monkeys react to the influence of cocaine. Monkeys on blow?! Those wastrels! Never mind that the mailer is referencing a four-year-old study, paid for by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, that helped scientists at Wake Forest University learn more about combating crippling drug addiction. Then again, who needs useless bullshit like that when we could be spending that $71,000 to buy a handful of Unobtainium wing-nuts for the Joint Strike Fighter?