Political ad makers were a busy bunch in 2013 — and the election year had not even started yet. Several competitive Senate races and special elections in the House meant the airwaves were already crowded.
Here’s Roll Call list of the top five most memorable congressional campaign advertisements of 2013:
5. “A Walk”
The Race: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sponsored this spot in the special election for South Carolina’s 1st District. Now-Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., waged a comeback bid to succeed now-Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., in this GOP-friendly district. Sanford’s well-documented personal foibles appeared to make this race against the Democratic nominee, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, somewhat competitive. This DCCC spot cleverly references — but never specifically mentions — Sanford’s extramarital affair in 2009. Instead, the ad plays on the infamous hike on the Appalachian Trail that the former governor never took.
The Result: The district reverted to its partisan leanings and elected Sanford, also a former congressman from the area. In retrospect, it’s questionable if Colbert Busch even had a shot, despite Sanford’s problematic personal past. Ad Makers: Eric Adelstein and Ann Liston of Adelstein Liston
The Race: Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., ran this memorable spot for his re-election campaign in early December. He’s probably this cycle’s most vulnerable member, and Republicans have rallied behind Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., as his likely opponent. In a bid to prove his appeal to increasingly conservative Arkansas voters, Pryor declares the Bible “his compass” and his “North Star.” Even though it’s early, Senate campaign spots have been all over the Arkansas airwaves, and Pryor has spent at least $800,000 so far to run them. This one is definitely the most memorable.
The Result: To be determined in the next independent polling, or on Election Day 2014. But in the short term, Pryor’s ad created some conflict between Cotton and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Ad Maker: Karl Struble of Struble Eichenbaum
3. “The Choice is Right”
The Race: Lobbyist David Jolly is one of two Republicans running in the high-stakes special election in Florida’s 13th District. He faces state Rep. Kathleen Peters in the Jan. 14 primary, and the winner will take on the likely Democratic nominee, Alex Sink, in this highly competitive district. The victor will succeed the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young. The Result: Again, to be determined. It’s a struggle to campaign during the holiday season, but Jolly’s spot was backed by a smart buy. Much like the “Price is Right” target demographic, Florida’s 13th District has an outsized elderly population. The ad ran during a special episode of the show — hosted by Jolly’s old friend Bob Barker — in honor of the former host’s 90th birthday. Ad Maker: Adam Goodman of The Victory Group
2. “Father’s Son”
The Race: State Rep. Carl Sciortino was one of several Democrats running in the special election for Massachusetts’ 5th District. The winner would succeed now-Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass. In this spot, Sciortino, who is openly gay, and his father, a self-described member of the tea party, play his “coming out” as a liberal. The Result: It was effective, sort of. The spot helped Sciortino get plenty of unearned media, and within days, the campaign raised more than $100,000. But Sciortino finished third in the Democratic primary to now-Rep.-elect Katherine M. Clark. Ad Maker: Mark Putnam of Putnam Partners
1. “Duck Commander Willie Robertson Reminds You to Vote Vance”
The Race: Now-Rep. Vance McAllister, R-La., ran in Louisiana’s 5th District special election to replace former Rep. Rodney Alexander, a Republican who resigned earlier this year. Just before Election Day, the McAllister campaign went up with a 15-second endorsement ad starring Willie Robertson of the reality show “Duck Dynasty.” Sure, the production value is one step up from a middle-of-the-night used car sales lot ad, and it’s unclear whether Robertson is even using a microphone. But the “Duck Dynasty” family hails from the northern Louisiana district, and their popularity is all that really mattered for the spot. The Result: After Alexander announced his leave, Republicans viewed another candidate, state Sen. Neil Riser, as the favorite to the succeed him. Republicans now see the “Duck Dynasty” ad as the turning point that gave McAllister his 19-point blowout. What’s more, McAllister returned the favor now that he’s a member. In the fallout over Willie’s father’s controversial comments to GQ equating a gay lifestyle to bestiality and adultery, McAllister stood behind the patriarch, according to The Daily Beast. Ad Maker: RedPrint Strategy
Shira T. Center, Emily Cahn and Kyle Trygstad contributed to this report.