Democrat Jon Ossoff has lost the most expensive race for a House seat in US history. Republican Karen Handel beat him by pert near four points, becoming the new representative of Georgia’s sixth congressional district and shattering Democrats’ hope of retaking the House with the aid of a fortunate meteor strike. This election was not very important. To hear FiveThirtyEight and various other pundits tell it, it wasn’t even good for a bellwether. The only thing we can say conclusively is that it occasioned the spending of more money—about $55 million, by the Times’s count—than was ever before spent on a congressional race.
Was it worth it? Not for Democrats, who only managed to wedge another loss for low-agenda centrism into their electoral postseason. I hesitate to say it was worth it for Republicans, either. They squeezed donors tightly to increase by one their majority in a chamber that seats 435. But at least a shitload of consultants got paid—and in an off year, no less. Say what you will about the Democrats’ recent streak of expensive moral victories; at least it’s funded commercials like this:
I’m no veteran campaign operative, but I think the idea for this advertisement was actually an idea for some tweets. What does this message gain from becoming a video? Maybe the campaign wanted to reach voters who watch television instead of using the internet but still admire people who stare numbly at their phones. Perhaps their research found that voters in GA-6 liked Jon Ossoff but wanted him to more strongly resemble a two-episode character on Veep. Or maybe the old ad-budget pie got sliced up in a way that left an off piece.
But wait, you say, ever on the lookout for opportunities to be charitable, this looks like B-roll footage. Maybe this ad was made from the kind of bland, soundless footage campaigns release publicly so that unaffiliated groups can use it in their own spots. The whole tweeting conceit is probably just a clever workaround. But no, the last frames inform us that the ad was paid for by Jon Ossoff for Congress and, almost as improbably, approved by Jon Ossoff.
It’s easy to second-guess the Democratic Party lately, and I think now is a good time to remember that no one else has demonstrated any better understanding of how to beat Republican candidates. But ads like this one explore the limits of campaigning without a strong policy agenda. To a lot of viewers, this is footage of a bland corporate type promising not to be Donald Trump. That doesn’t offer much to voters who worry that bland corporate types are running the country into the ground—a description that covers a substantial portion of the electorate, plus many of the people who hold themselves outside it. It’s funny how limp Democratic messaging has become. But only for a second, and then I get scared.
Republicans wrest control of the Senate from Democrats.
The results are in, sort of, and yesterday’s elections were a resounding victory for the Republican Party. You might replace “resounding” with “pyrrhic” and also get a true sentence. Candidates and unaffiliated groups spent $4 billion this cycle, making the 2014 midterms the most expensive in US history. The financial services industry won the dubious honor of spending the most, donating $171 million to candidate and the groups that support them. And what hath all that money wrought? The GOP picked up at least seven seats in the Senate, giving them control of the other house of a Congress that happens to be the least productive in history. We’re just busting records left and right.
That’s an ad for Minnesota’s Mike McFadden: dad, coach, businessman, nut shot victim, candidate for US Senate. Before we lament the dignity of his office, let’s remember that McFadden is running against incumbent Al Franken (D–MN). Neither man is exactly James Blaine of Maine. Still, there is something weird about this campaign advertisement. Is it that Coach McFadden seems to have taught his players to lunge forward and punch him in the nuts whenever a literal interpretation of his words authorizes them to do so? Is that even his real peewee football team? Certainly, every child who plays peewee football dreams of helping his coach become a senator, but very few actually do. Is it weird for McFadden to get these kids’ hopes up by putting them in his campaign commercial? No, it’s weird that he gets punched in the nuts at the end.
Still from another advertisement that may mischaracterize Rep. Steve King (R–IA)
Tea Party darling and Iowa delegate to the US House of Representatives Steve King has refused to publicly debate Jim Mowrer until the Democrat’s campaign stops running a “misleading” advertisement against him. According to the Sioux City Journal, King withdrew from a Sunday debate on Iowa Public Television over a television ad that alleges he voted against increasing the minimum wage and for increasing congressional compensation. King denies that he ever “voted to raise his pay or get free health care. “When Mowrer comes clean, I’ll clear my schedule for Sunday and debate him,” King told the Journal. Until then, voters can just sit tight and work with the information they have.
I don’t like it any more than you do, but in 2014, we have to admit that shooting stuff has become a genre of campaign advertisement. Senator Joe Manchin arguably invented it when he shot a copy of the cap and trade bill in 2010. Last month, Alabama candidate for US House Will Brooke shot and then mulched the affordable care act, in a spot bearing the electorally ominous tagline “let’s do some damage.” The marksman above is Matt Rosendale, Montana senator and Republican candidate for Montana’s lone House seat. He hates the federal government so much he wants to be a part of it, but only so he can get close enough to hogtie it or shoot it with a zip gun or whatever.