Whoever said politics was boring surely had not paid attention to this past election cycle. From witches to chickens to peanuts, this election might go down as more than just a “shellacking” of the Democrats. From the outrageous to the bizarre, Republicans and Democrats reminded the public why campaign season can be so much fun.
This list was tough to narrow down since there was a plethora of material to choose from. Each moment either defined a campaign or was a significant episode that greatly influenced a particular election. For those who have seen these already – relive the memories. For those who are unfamiliar with these incidents – enjoy American democracy on full display.
#10 – Loretta Sanchez (D) vs. Van Tran (R) – US Congressional Race (CA)
In a bizarre statement on Univision – the Spanish language television network – incumbent Rep. Sanchez stated “the Vietnamese” were trying to take her congressional seat from her. Her opponent, Van Tran, was a Vietnamese-born émigré to the US whose family had been evacuated by the US Army before the fall of Saigon in 1975. This is the first known incident where someone invoked the ‘vast-Vietnamese conspiracy’ to influence an election. Loretta Sanchez won. (Video)
#9 – Sue Lowden (R) – US Senate Republican Primary (NV)
At a local candidate forum discussing healthcare, Sue Lowden gave a bizarre historical comparison of bartering chickens for healthcare services back in the “olden days.” The National Democratic Senatorial Committee immediately jumped at the opportunity and created a “Chickens for Checkup” form letter on their website where people could offer items in return for certain types of medical treatments. A humorous video soon hit the internet poking fun at the incident. Sue Lowden lost. (Video)
#8 – Charlie Crist (R) vs. Marco Rubio (R) – US Senate Republican Primary (FL)
Down in the polls by double digits, sitting Governor Charlie Crist went on the attack against his conservative, Tea Party-backed opponent Marco Rubio. After months of Rubio attacking Crist’s fiscal record epitomized by his physical embrace of President Obama’s stimulus bill in early 2009, Crist claimed that Rubio was actually the faux fiscal conservative. In an interview with Greta Van Susteren on Fox News, Crist, in an act of desperation, flippantly suggested that Rubio had used a state Republican Party credit card to get a $130 “back wax” at a salon. The attack backfired and Crist would soon drop out of the Republican primary to run as an independent. Marco Rubio won. (Video)
#7 – David Axelrod (D), Sr. Advisor to President Obama – Face the Nation Interview
In a CBS interview with David Axelrod, Bob Schieffer referred to the Obama administration’s claims that the US Chamber of Commerce had injected illegal foreign contributions to Republican campaigns as “peanuts.” He then asked Axelrod what proof he had to support their claims. Without providing any concrete evidence, Axelrod responded instead by asking “do you have any evidence that they are not, Bob?” The Republicans used this interview to make it appear the Democrats were getting desperate and were trying to create a narrative that would justify their expected losses in November. (Video)
#6 – Alan Grayson (D) vs. Daniel Webster (R) – US Congressional Race (FL)
In one of the more low-ball moments of the election cycle, Rep. Grayson – the bombastic progressive – aired an ad shamefully equating his Republican opponent, Daniel Webster, with the Taliban. In an attempt to save his struggling campaign, Grayson took a statement from Webster out of context stating that women should “submit” to their husbands. The ad received such a backlash from the public and media that it was dubbed the “Taliban Dan” ad. This is the first known incident where a sitting US congressman attempted to liken his opponent to the Taliban. Daniel Webster won. (Video)
#5 – Jerry Brown (D) vs. Meg Whitman (R) – Gubernatorial Race (CA)
In a conversation accidentally taped in a voicemail message, Jerry Brown and his aide are discussing public safety pension reform in California. During the conversation, in Brown’s presence, his aide is overheard referring to Meg Whitman as a “whore” for her willingness to compromise with law enforcement unions. At the time, Brown said nothing condoning the comment and bumbled an apology during a debate soon after. It should be noted the day after the voicemail message was released, the so-called nonpartisan National Organization for Women (NOW) astonishingly gave Brown their endorsement. Jerry Brown won. (Audio)
#4 – President Barack Obama (D) – The Daily Show Interview
In an effort to reach out to young voters to assist Democrat Party candidates, President Obama appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In what was assumed to be a cakewalk interview, the president left with a feeling of ‘pie-in-face.’ While referring to the president as “dude” and intimated his legislative agenda as timid, Jon Stewart made the unamused president qualify his 2008 campaign slogan of ‘Yes We Can’ with “Yes we can, but… (long pause, then interrupted by laughter) …it’s not gonna happen overnight.” The interview showcased a weakened president foreshadowing a big defeat come Election Day. (Video)
#3 – Jimmy McMillan & Kristin Davis – Gubernatorial Debate (NY)
In one of the most bizarre elections of the year, Carl Paladino (R) asked his unwilling-to-debate opponent Andrew Cuomo (D) to “debate like a man” and to debate all the gubernatorial candidates in a paid three-minute TV spot. Cuomo agreed but both men would ironically be overshadowed by two other candidates.
Jimmy McMillan, an African-American wearing black gloves throughout the debate, repeatedly and poetically stated his reason for running was the “rent is too damn high.” Believe it or not, that’s the name of his political party as well. The other candidate who stole the show was Kristin Davis – the NYC madam who allegedly sold prostitutes to former NY governor turned CNN host, Elliott Spitzer. During the debate she implied that her experience owning an escort agency, providing “on time and reliable services,” was reason enough to elect her. I’m not kidding. McMillan and Davis both lost. (Video 1) (Video 2)
#2 – Rand Paul (R) vs. Jack Conway (D) – US Senate Race (KY)
In one of the more strange moments on the campaign trail, Jack Conway – currently the state’s Attorney General – aired an ad accusing Rand Paul of tying up, blindfolding, and kidnapping a girl almost thirty years ago while making her take bong hits and pray unto a so-called deity named “Aqua Buddha.” Conway stated he had used an interview from the anonymous victim from a GQ magazine article. Paul vociferously denied the incident at a debate, refused to shake Conway’s hand after, and reminded him that as Attorney General making false accusations was illegal. The alleged victim would later state she was not physically forced to do anything and that the incident was just a college prank and had been blown out of proportion. Rand Paul won. (Video)
#1 – Christine O’Donnell (R) vs. Chris Coons (D) – US Senate Race (DE)
The most outrageous moment of the election season is awarded to Christine O’Donnell from Delaware. After national endorsements from Sarah Palin and various Tea Party groups, O’Donnell shocked the political establishment by knocking out the favored, moderate Republican candidate. Soon after, Bill Maher – former host of ABC’s television show Politically Incorrect, released a video of a bizarre exchange between Maher and O’Donnell where she admitted to “dabbling in witchcraft (but) I never joined a covenant.” She continued by describing that her first date had been with a witch and involved a “midnight picnic” on a satanic altar with “a little blood on it.”
After Maher released the video, O’Donnell tried to make the best of a bad situation in a TV ad stating she was not a witch – she was you. While the interview might have been taken out of context this is the first known incident in US political history that a candidate had to actually deny being a witch. Christine O’Donnell lost. (Video 1) (Video 2)