Watch: The 5 Most Hilariously Bad GOP General Election Ads Ever Aired

Gerald Ford used a celebrity sponsor; George H.W. Bush opted for a gray dot. And Dole, McCain and Romney's ads all backfired, actually complimenting Democrats. 

Donald Trump's TV ad spend in the general election was nothing until this week, when the campaign announced Trump would begin airing ads in late August. 

Want to win an election? You might want to avoid the following:

1. "Pearl Bailey," Ford, 1976

"I'm going to tell you something funny. I'm not reading this off any paper," American actress and singer Pearl Bailey says, losing her train of thought after less than 30 seconds. "I like Gerald Ford. And that's why I hope that, I don't know..." Bailey continues. So awkward. 

2. "Gray Dot," Bush, 1992

George H.W. Bush's approval ratings plummeted 60 points from early 1991 to mid-1992. Bill Clinton, the Democratic nominee, chose to focus his campaign on the economy, and after 12 consecutive years of Republican policies, Americans needed more than this literal cover-up to faze them. 

3. "Truth on Spending," Dole, 1996

The Clinton years brought a robust economy, and by September 1996, the GOP nominee was grasping at threads to give voters a reason not to elect the incumbent. Two months before the general election, "Republican presidential candidate [stole] a page from his [primary] rival's playbook, assailing President Clinton in a new ad for 'wasteful' spending projects, including—yes—'alpine slides in Puerto Rico,'" the Washington Post reported

"But I don't think that qualifies me as a closet liberal," Clinton says in the spot. Remember when that was a bad word for Democrats?

"Unfortunately for the Dole campaign, the White House never proposed such a project," WaPo's Howard Kurtz wrote. "It comes from a wish list of 4,000 projects sent in by the nation's mayors that the administration said it would consult for its $16 billion 'stimulus' package, which Congress rejected in 1993." Busted. 

4. "Celeb," McCain, 2008

"He's the biggest celebrity in the world. But is he ready to lead?" a female narrator asks. Really? A first-term senator from Illinois was the biggest celebrity in the world in July 2008? Also, you probably don't want to start a smear campaign holding your opponent in such high esteem. 

5. "Right Choice," Romney, 2012

Romney had some convincing buys; on the other hand, this is a mess. First Romney starts off praising Bill Clinton with a quote from the Washington Post that reads, "Unprecedented success!" He then goes on to criticize President Obama for gutting welfare reform—which never happened—or in the words of Newt Gingrich, "We have no proof."

"Under Obama's plan you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send your welfare check," a male voice announces in Romney's spot.

Uh, that doesn't really sound all that bad, honestly. 

Watch: Worst GOP General Election Ads in 60 Seconds

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card


Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.