As Election Day draws near, some politicians and advocacy groups are adopting highly experimental tactics to win public support. Here's a list of 2010's more notable political stunts:
Former Sen. Alan Simpson referred to Social Security as "a milk cow with 310 million tits" in an email to Ashley Carson of the Older Women's League. Members of the National Organization for Women were outraged. NOW's president, Terry O'Neil, handed the co-chair of the Deficit Commission a sack full of plastic baby-bottle tops outside Congress as part of NOW's "Tits for an Ass" campaign. What a "pathetic case of political theater," says Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon. This achieves nothing "other than making NOW look ridiculous."
Carl Paladino's stinking leaflets
There's something rotten in the state of New York. That's the message of Tea Party-backed gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, who mailed 200,000 garbage-scented fliers to prospective voters featuring pictures of corrupt Democrats. "Something STINKS in Albany," said the mailer, which was infused with the scent of a landfill. "This is probably the worst imaginable thing a candidate can ever do," says Jim Newell at Gawker. "Or perhaps the best."
A Tea Party subpoena
Some Florida conservatives are so sure Rep. Alan Grayson helped plant a far-right candidate into his November race for re-election, they are taking him to court. The grassroots activists subpoenaed Grayson this week, claiming he had conspired with GOP consultant Doug Guetzloe to place Tea Partier Peg Dunmire on the ballot in order to split the Republican vote. All three deny the claims, and Grayson dismissed the subpoena as a "publicity stunt."
Scott Walker's Harley-Davidson tour
The Republican candidate for governor of Wisconsin donned leathers and visited the state's tourist attractions on his Harley motorcycle earlier this year. Walker said it was part of his job as Milwaukee county executive, but Democrats have accused him of spending taxpayer money on a political stunt to draw attention to his gubernatorial run. Given Walker's freeze on all unnecessary travel for county employees, says Kari Lamanuzzi at AllAboutBikes.com, you have to conclude that "maybe his rules don't apply to him."
Eric Cantor's Job Fair
The Republican congressman was accused of organizing and paying for a job fair in his home state of Virginia to drum up publicity for the November election. Rick Waugh, his Democratic opponent, said 24 of the companies that attended the Glen Allen job fair had no positions available and many others couldn't say if they had jobs to offer. Waugh is right, says local blogger The Richmonder. "Cantor misled all these people who are desperate for a job into wasting their time, gasoline, and résumé paper. For what? A cynical act of self-promotion."
Stephen Colbert's congressional comic turn
The Comedy Central funnyman appeared in character last week before a House subcommittee on immigration, discussing migrant labor in agriculture. No sooner had Colbert finished his gag-filled statement than critics were lining up to excoriate Democrats for inviting him to speak. The party could not possibly have thought this would "make themselves look good," says David A. Graham at Newsweek. Not only is it "an affront to the preparation and knowledge of the real experts who come to Capitol Hill" but it also "makes [Democrats] look like grandstanders at best, and incompetent ones at that."