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From witches to 'Aqua Buddha': why Election 2010 ads are so outrageous

Is Christine O'Donnell a witch? Does Rand Paul worship the 'Aqua Buddha'? These have been the subjects of two legitimate political ads in Election 2010. What's going on?

By Staff writer / October 19, 2010

Michigan's Republican gubernatorial candidate, Rick Snyder, is one tough nerd – or at least his campaign ads say so. Other campaign ads in Election 2010 have talked about witches, demon sheep, and the 'Aqua Buddha' – taking the political ad into new and outlandish territory. Here, Snyder debates Democrat Virg Bernero at the Detroit Public Broadcast studio in Wixom, Mich., Oct. 10.

Mandi Wright/AP


Los Angeles

Witches, demon sheep, one tough nerd – top costume choices for this Halloween?
Maybe, but at the moment these are just a few of the topics in political ads this midterm election cycle. Opening an ad for Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell of Delaware with the words “I am not a witch"?

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Perhaps "brilliant," if you believe to CNN's "Spitzer/Parker" cohost Eliot Spitzer. Perhaps not, if you look at the polls, where Ms. O'Donnell still trails by some 20 points.

But one thing is for sure – outlandish, outrageous, downright kooky ad material, which not too long ago would have been banished to the catchy-but-unthinkable file, is pretty much all over the place.

And, says senior Republican strategist David Johnson, it is here to stay.

The political culture is adjusting to changing viewer and reader habits, he says. With so many sources of information, from TV to the Internet and mobile devices, it’s harder than ever to stand out.

“The more extreme, the more colorful your ad is to draw attention you will stand out,” he says. “It is very much like reality TV. The way to stand out is controversy."

California Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina cast her primary opponent, Tom Campbell, as a demon sheep. Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder, who has staked himself to a large lead in the polls, has characterized himself as "one tough nerd" in ads. Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate is running ads about a college prank in which opponent Rand Paul allegedly demanded that a blindfolded woman pray to the "Aqua Buddha."

New age for ads


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