We at The Hotline saw virtually every political ad this cycle and by Election Day most of them just blended together.
A few, however, stood out - in a good way - and it was usually when the ad did something unexpected. So, from lumberjacks to boxing bags to firing ranges, here are The Hotline's Top 10 Ads of 2010.
1) "Get America Rolling Again!" Wisconsin Rep.-elect Sean Duffy (R) ran some of the most effective ads this cycle, but this one by far was his best. The former MTV Real Worlder and lumberjack competitor announced early the cycle that he would take on veteran Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), before Obey announced his retirement. Duffy is a likely to be a rising star in the GOP and, in this spot, he used a log spinning competition to "dunk career politicians."
2) "Echo" No ad better tied a candidate to another politician than California Gov.-elect Jerry Brown's attack on Republican Meg Whitman. The ad showed Whitman saying the exact same words as outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is deeply unpopular in California, a dozen times. Brown had a knack for using Whitman's words against her in campaign ads, as illustrated by another devastating attack ad.
3) "Dead Aim" On the flipside, no ad more effectively distanced a candidate from another politician and policy than this ad from West Virginia Sen.-elect Joe Manchin. The ad illustrated that Manchin is no lily-livered Democratic lapdog to the Obama administration as he literally shot cap and trade energy legislation with his rifle. The ad was critical because up to that point Republican John Raese had closed the gap on Manchin because he was able to effectively label Manchin a "rubber stamp" for the president.
4) "Who Are You?" This Americans for Job Security ad targeted Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.) when his Republican challenger Renee Ellmers couldn't afford to air any ads. The ad highlighted Etheridge's now infamous shoving incident that was caught on tape and put Etheridge's re-election bid on the radar screen of competitive races for the first time. After a recount, Etheridge conceded last Friday.
5) "Noem For Congress" This spot introduced Kristi Noem, a top Republican recruit, to South Dakota as a relatable and attractive alternative to Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D). Noem is now a rising star in the party and is already part of the Republican House leadership.
6) "Punching Bag" Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) aired effective ads throughout the cycle that helped him keep his race against Republican Rep.-elect Robert Hurt close. This one, in which Perriello becomes a punching bag, was particularly eye catching.
7) "Change For The Worse" One of the longest-serving Democrats to fall on Election Day was House Armed Services Committee Chair Ike Skelton (D-Mo.). Republican Vicky Hartzler was able to unseat the old bull in part by using clever and hard hitting ads. This one features Skelton repeatedly telling a colleague on the House floor to "stick it up your..." well you get the idea.
8) "Vote" Virtually every Republican challenger sought to tie Democratic incumbents to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), but one did so as effectively as Republican Rep.-elect Steven Palazzo (Miss.). In this ad, Palazzo uses the footage of Rep. Gene Taylor (D) voting for Pelosi to become Speaker in 2007. It was a clever use of C-SPAN footage, especially considering Taylor frequently split from Pelosi on major issues.
9) "Own Words" Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek's (D) Senate campaign did not go as he had hoped, but this ad using Gov. Charlie Crist's (I) words from when he was a Republican was jaw-dropping.
10) "The Johnson Family" Wisconsin Sen.-elect Ron Johnson (R) used creative ads throughout the cycle to set him apart as a not-your-typical-politician-type candidate. This one introduced the political newcomer to Wisconsin -- a state that has historically liked unique ads -- and set the stage for his runaway win over Sen.Russ Feingold (D).
Honorable mention: "Sir" This early Fred Davis-produced ad from Republican Carly Fiorina (R) put her challenge to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) on the map. It seemed to encapsulate negative feelings toward Boxer in just 20 seconds. It wasn't enough: Boxer cruised to re-election after an early scare.