As this issue goes to press, we have no way of knowing how the 2012 elections went. But there is at least one clear group of winners — all the TV stations who have reaped billions from airing political ads — and one group of losers: the poor saps who end up watching them. And even though those ads are about to disappear from the airwaves, every year a few prove especially difficult to dislodge from your brain. Which, if you think about it, is a victory in itself, no matter what the polls say. Here are some that deserve recognition — even if the candidates they champion do not.
Best use of regional accent
Tom Smith (R-US Senate)
Never mind that what's really killing the coal industry is the increasing use of natural gas: This out-of-work miner's grievance against "Buhrawck Ohhbawma" oozes Western Pennsylvania cred. Also, "Colt Bowman?" In a region where hunting is a religion, that's the political-ad equivalent of a porn-star name.
Most coma-inducing spot
Bob Casey (D-US Senate)
"When I was a kid, these hills were easier to climb," says Bob Casey at the start of this spot. And to think: People say Casey is dull! Obviously there's a metaphor here — "our entire country is climbing back," Casey says — but you can't even tell the hill is all that steep. Meanwhile, Casey's red button-down shirt matches the fall foliage of a tree just down the hill. Which just proves that Casey is a rare breed of politician: the kind who, if he's not careful, risks blending into the background of his own TV ads.
Most obvious pander to geezers
60 Plus Association
Members of the Greatest Generation fought World War II, and gave us the New Deal. But now one of them wants you to know that federal deficits are just like the Nazis. "Today our freedoms are threatened again — this time by wasteful spending," a D-Day veteran tells us. Oddly, the ad doesn't urge you to support anyone in particular — and 60 Plus is a shadowy 501(c)4 organization that doesn't disclose its funding. But its message is clear: If you spot wasteful spending, choose the candidate who will liberate France.
Most blatant tokenism
American Future Fund (R)
This ad, intended to convince voters that conservatives understand women's issues, is the rare GOP spot to include an actual black person. But while other women shown are working at jobs and taking care of families, the ad's lone black female is shown ... running in a track event. But hey — at least the ad didn't show her collecting a welfare check. And people say Republicans are insensitive!
Best use of silhouette art
House Majority PAC (D)
On the right is a silhouette of Republican Keith Rothfus, who is challenging Democrat Congressman Mark Critz. Here, however, Rothfus looks like someone who failed his audition with a Kinks cover band. And just who is the object of Rothfus' disaffected gaze, squaring off against the candidate from across the Capitol itself? Nothing less than the iconic Pennsylvania supervoter: a geezer wearing a driving cap and wielding a walker.
Best attempt at emulating a carbon-based life form
Keith Rothfus (R-US House)
Rothfus launched his own ad campaign by trying to convince people he was just a regular human being — and not, despite outward appearances, some kind of mantis-being who seeks to lay its eggs in your chest cavity. The ads boldly claim that Rothfus is capable of dropping his kids at school and repairing bicycles — just what you want in a Congressman. But this stuff works: Not long ago, a Democratic operative told City Paper that voters he's spoken with have said, "I like that Rothfus. He's a regular guy."