As we get closer to the midterm elections, we’re are going to see a lot of campaign ads. Some will be slick; some will be amateurish. In the primary season, many will be designed to appeal to the ideological and partisan passions of “base” voters.
But I would venture to say that the most unhinged ad of the cycle may have already appeared, from former Michigan congressman Kerry Bentivolio, who is attempting a comeback in the open 11th U.S. House district (in the suburbs west of Detroit) that he represented from 2013 to 2015. To say that he is a conservative Republican is a bit of an understatement, as you can see from this spot:
I nearly jumped out of my chair at the opening close-up image of Bentivolio glaring at the viewer and speaking in a Jehovian voice. And the whole ad is absolutely memorable, in a thoroughly unwholesome way.
Bentivolio isn’t new to strange controversy. He was very much an accidental congressman when he won the GOP nomination in the 11th after incumbent Thad McCotter (who was a bit distracted by a totally unsuccessful presidential candidacy) failed to file enough valid petitions to appear on the primary ballot. He managed to win the general election (after losing a special election to finish McCotter’s term after he resigned) despite some bad publicity about various personal financial problems, and the unusual business background of raising reindeer to support a Santa Claus impersonation act.
By 2014, Michigan Republicans embarrassed by Bentivolio’s election recruited wealthy attorney David Trott to take him out, and he did so by a two-to-one margin after outspending the incumbent by 20-1. After posing a minor nuisance to Trott via a general-election write-in candidacy, Bentivolio suddenly shifted in 2016 to a failed effort to convince Libertarians to make him their vice-presidential nominee. A rather more distinguished former officeholder, William Weld, got that gig.
But now his vanquisher Trott is retiring from Congress, which is all the old snake-wrangling Santa needed to hear to jump into the 11th district GOP primary. He again faces better-heeled opponents — notably former Michigan Trump campaign chair and a wealthy self-funder, Lena Epstein, plus several viable Democrats. But nobody’s going to out-crazy Bentivolio’s ads. And if he catches fire, Nancy Pelosi and Rachel Maddow better watch out.