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View from the Hill

Animals lend a paw to congressional candidates in campaign ads

The television-watching public maintains a strong animosity toward advertisements interrupting their favorite shows, and the barrage of political ads during campaign season only increases public distaste.

Political candidates have to cut across the clutter of jingles, corporate slogans and forced hashtags that inundate viewers’ screens. A handful of political ads attempt to hold viewers attention with a hand — more precisely, a paw — from the animal kingdom.

Joni Ernst, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Iowa, first gained national attention in March when she appeared in an ad about hog castration.

“I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm, so when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork,” Ernst said in the ad.

Ernst touts her fiscally conservative positions while images of pigs squealing flash across the screen. 

The exposure from the unusual ad helped Ernst secure the Republican nomination, and she leads her Democratic opponent Bruce Braley in public opinion polls.

In other races, candidates have run ads with animals alongside humans, often to mixed results.

An ad from the National Republican Congressional Committee tried to tie Georgia Democrat John Barrows to wasteful spending and congressional monkey business — literally.

The ad features a small monkey perched atop a woman’s shoulders as she criticizes federal funding for simian science.

The ad begins with the woman saying, “825,000 of our tax dollars were spent on studying how monkeys respond to unfairness and how they act while on cocaine."

“Our country is being bankrupted, and John Barrow is voting with Barack Obama to do it.”

Not to be outdone, Barrow has an ad featuring a furry friend of his own.  In it he plays fetch with a golden retriever and talks to Georgia residents about his record in Congress.

“Somebody once said if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog,” he says in the ad. “Well I wouldn’t wish Washington on a dog. I’m listening to Georgia.”

Louisiana Republican Rob Maness might be trailing fellow Republican Bill Cassidy by so much that he is defending his decision to stay in the race versus Democratic incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu, but his gator-centric ad is surely the best in the bayou. (Louisiana has an open primary in November, where multiple candidates from each party can run.)

Texas Republican Dwayne Stovall failed in his bid to unseat incumbent Sen. John Cornyn, finishing third in the primary, but his campaign will be remembered for an ad taking shots at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s uncanny resemblance to a turtle.

“I’m a Texan,” Stovall says. “We Texans don’t need a beltway turtle telling us how to fight.”

Stovall’s ad even goes the extra mile to feature a talking dog to underscore his message:

“I like turtle soup,” the dog says, as an imitation of NBC’s “the more you know” graphic rolls across the screen.

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