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Patrick Hruby

Wacky Political Ad Watch: Rick Santorum's Greatest Hits

A fond farewell to the candidate's silliest spots

He's gone. And far too soon. Just as I was hoping the increasingly desperate Rick Santorum would channel said desperation into increasingly bizarre online campaign ads -- a la the suspended, but not forgotten Herman Cain -- the Republican presidential contender-cum-unreformed square dropped out of the race.


After all, beneath the dorky sweater vests, gooberish, matted-squirrel-pelt 'do and unrelenting stream of modern social views -- circa 1952 -- beat the sneering heart of a detention hall spitball tosser. A candidate unafraid to taunt things out. It's a shame Santorum couldn't hang in, if only to needle President Obama and Mitt Romney a bit longer.

To celebrate his departure, some quick takes on my favorite Santorum 2012 web spots, starting with the near-peerless "Obamaville":

Concept: A-plus-plus-plus. Under Obama, America isn't just a place that needs its future restored, preferably via some sort of Ray Bradbury-meets-"Terminator" time paradox. Oh, no. Come 2014, our once fair republic has become a post-apocalyptic hellscape, "The Stand" meets the Rapture, a land of hungry crows and empty playgrounds and childrenless shoes, population exactly two (a sad, smudge-faced little girl; a creepy demonic Rosemary's baby in a creepier empty bathtub).

Execution: C-minus. So here's the problem with visually postulating that the ObamAmercia of two years down the road will, in fact, resemble "The Road": you can't half-ass the End of Days. Santorum's strong start gives way to Americans worried about ... their jobs. High gas prices. The amount of time they have to wait to see their doctor. More to the point, these same still-living, still-breathing Americans aren't even worried about flesh-eating zombies. Tomorrow's nightmares are the same mundane problems of today, and probably 50 years ago, too. In figure-skating terms, this is two-footing the landing of a quadruple axel.

Message: B-minus. Nothing wrong with a tried-and-true "vote for me or else" appeal - it just works better when the "or else" in question is an enormous, little-girl-and-flower-annihilating mushroom cloud, as opposed to Iran kinda-maybe-sorta becoming a nuclear threat while a couple of fatcat bankers enjoy cocktails.

Lunacy Quotient: A. The totally inspired image of a dude trying to commit suicide by pressing a gas pump to his temple is more than worth the price of admission. Kudos, good sirs!

Concept: B. What do you when Mitt Romney and an a group of completely-unaffiliated-because-that-would-be-illegal SuperPACs pummel you with ceaseless barrage of attack ads? Attempt a bit of low-budget political jujitsu, and make Mitt look like the bad guy for continually pointing out what a (apologies to Charlie Pierce) what a colossal d__k you are. How dare you, Mitt Romney! Have you no shame?

Execution: B-minus. The visual metaphor is solid and easy to grasp. Romney is the semi-crazed triggerman of a mud-firing paintball assault rifle; Santorum is the clean, pristine cardboard cutout under constant attack. Oh, and the paintball rifle backfiring on Romney's white shirt is a nice touch. That said, when the most charismatic thing about you is your predilection for sweater vests, do you really want to portray yourself in cardboard? (Moreover, when Romney's stump speech efforts to acheive genuine human emoting make Mr. Spock look like Oprah, do you want to give him a sexy gun and have him running around as if he's actually dynamic?)

Message: F-minus. Complaining about the other guy's attack ads is like whining about an opponent who runs up the score. Loser talk. Even when it's true. How 'bout keeping Romney out of the end zone?

Lunacy Quotient: C-plus. Why is Romney stalking cardboard cutouts in an abandoned factory? Why is he hiding behind concrete support beams when cardboard Santorum is clearly unarmed? In a Florida court of law, which man would have a more legitimate claim to Standing Their Ground? So many unanswered questions.

So, yeah: this isn't actually a campaign ad. But it should have been! Funny stuff, and I'm sure the Obama campaign had a good laugh, even if they could never publicly admit to it. Karl Rove, eat your heart out.