Five Presidential Campaign Ads from Elections Past

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have drawn criticism for their campaign ads, but they weren't the first to do so.

Election Day is (finally) here, which means that all of the stumping, campaigning, and advertising is drawing to an end. But let’s not forget that there’s been a great deal of scuttlebutt about the campaign ads run by the Romney and Obama campaigns over the past few months (too negative, not negative enough, not enough screen time for the American flag, etc.), but what about the television campaign ads from past elections? They ruffled a few feathers in their day, too. Check out these five presidential television ads from past campaigns:

1. “Maine” (Clinton campaign, 1992)

This little gem has a bit of New England flavor as it features a narrator talking about all the fun recreational activities (golfing, boating, etc.) that President Bush does in Maine. But wait: Where does he pay taxes? Oh yes, that’s right: Texas.



2. “Lodge” (Nixon campaign, 1960)

First, this is one of those celebrated Lodges of Massachusetts. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. had been narrowly defeated by JFK in 1952 for Senate, and he was enlisted to fill out the ticket with presidential candidate Richard Nixon. At the time he was tapped for the VP spot, Lodge was serving as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The highlight here among Lodge’s stodgy performance? His admonition that the American Revolution is better than the looming Communist Revolution.



3. “Boston Harbor” (Bush campaign, 1988)

Today, the cleanup of Boston Harbor is considered quite a success story. Back in the presidential campaign of 1988, the Bush campaign considered this body of water a key focal point, along with footage of Governor Dukakis taking a ride in a tank. The somber narration and images of dead fish and floating debris are perhaps the key elements of this short, but effective, piece of political propaganda.



4. “Bay” (Dukakis campaign, 1988)

Gov. Dukakis struck back against the Bush campaign’s withering critique of Boston Harbor with this 30-second TV spot. Starting with an image of President Bush accompanied by the words “Bush’s False Advertising,” the ad goes on to name-check some of Bush’s greatest anti-environment “hits,” including slashing funds to clean up the California coast.



5. “John Kerry, International Man of Mystery” (Bush campaign, 2004)

The Bush campaign “got hip” by incorporating sound-bites from the wacky world of the Austin Power movies into this web-only advertisement. The piece attempts to pigeonhole Sen. John Kerry as someone unwilling to share information about his political connections, courtesy of a careful manipulated set of media appearances and soundbites.