The 2012 Campaign Superlatives

The 2012 campaign cycle was filled with memorable moments

ByABC News
November 15, 2012, 1:14 PM

Nov. 16,2012— -- intro: The 2012 presidential campaign was filled with memorable moments, good, bad and just plain bizarre. And now that the campaign is over, it's time to sift through those ups and downs and determine who won, who lost, and who was just confused. So scroll through ABC News' list of 2012 superlatives.

quicklist: 1title: Best Campaign Adcategory: Richard Tisei -- Not Your Typical Politiciantext: An openly gay Republican candidate in Massachusetts, Richard Tisei did not fit into any traditional political roles. And the unique candidate, who was running in the sixth congressional district of Massachusetts, went one step further when he released a unique political ad during the final weeks leading up to Election day. Instead of using his 30 seconds of purchased TV time to slam his opponent, Rep. John Tierney or highlight his past accomplishments in the state legislature, Tisei ran an ad with no words whatsoever. The ad, titled "Not Your Typical Ad, Not Your Typical Politician" showed a beach, and featured only the sounds of waves crashing onto the sand and text scrolled on the bottom right hand side of the screen that read "because you need a break from all the campaign ads."

Unfortunately for Tisei, the relaxing and awesome ad did not translate into victory. Tisei narrowly lost his race to Tierney.

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quicklist: 2title: Weirdest Campaign Adcategory: Herman Cain -- Now Is the Time for Actiontext: Herman Cain's presidential candidacy might have fizzled out as quickly as it rose, but the Cain campaign left its mark on the 2012 highlight reel with a bizarre web ad released in the fall of 2011. The ad, titled "Now is the Time For Action" featured a monologue from Cain's campaign manager, Mark Block, about why he believed Cain was the best choice to lead the country. "I really believe that Herman Cain will put united back in the United States of America, and if I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be here," Block says to the camera. "We've run a campaign like nobody's ever seen. But then, American's never seen a candidate like Herman Cain." At the end of the video the ad takes the weird turn when Block puffs on a cigarette and smiles at the camera while the song "I Am America" plays behind him. The video went viral and became the butt (pun intended) of many late-night jokes. Cain's campaign ended shortly after when numerous sexual harassment suits against the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza came to light, but the memory of the head-scratching ad lived on.

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quicklist: 3title: Most Successful Spender category: Jeffrey Katzenbergtext: The Dreamworks CEO and big Democratic supporter seemed to bet on the right candidates in 2012. In addition to donating $3 million to the pro-Obama super PAC "Priorities USA Action," he funded a slew of other winning candidates including Massachusetts Senator-Elect Elizabeth Warren, Virginia Senator-Elect Tim Kaine, and Missouri Senator-Elect Claire McCaskill. The only candidate Katzenberg donated to that went on to lose their race was California Rep. Howard Berman, who lost in a bitter and expensive race to fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman.

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quicklist: 4title: Least Successful Spendercategory: Karl Rovetext: Rove heads up the powerful super PAC "American Crossroads" and its affiliated 501- C4 group "Crossroads GPS." According to analysis from the Sunlight Foundation, only 1.29 percent of the more than $103 million spent in the general election by American Crossroads ended in the desired result. The Sunlight Foundation estimates that Crossroads GPS had a higher batting average- 14.4percent of the $70 million plus spent in the general election ended in the desired result. However, campaign finance law does not require 501 C4 groups like GPS to immediately report all of their spending, so these numbers are subject to change.

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quicklist: 5title: Best Secret Political Weaponcategory: Rob Portmantext: Rob Portman is the junior senator from Ohio, and he's not particularly well-known outside of the Beltway. However, the senator and former Bush budget director proved to be the most valuable weapon for Republicans. It was Portman, 56, who played Obama during Romney's debate prep. The first presidential debate was seen as perhaps the best performances by Mitt Romney of the entire campaign cycle, and it changed the state of the race, which had been going towards Obama, to a very tight contest. Although Romney didn't ultimately win the race, the debate undoubtedly changed the final month of the race, and Portman's prep deserves a lot of credit.

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quicklist: 6title: Biggest Upsetcategory: Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnellytext: The two contests were markedly different, but the victories of Heidi Heitkamp in the North Dakota Senate race and Joe Donnelly in Indiana's Senate race were equally unlikely and impressive feats by the Democrats.

In North Dakota, Republicans had viewed the retirement of Democratic Senator Kent Conrad as one of their best chances for a Senate seat pick-up. The state went deeply red in the presidential election with Romney beating Obama by roughly 20 percentage points, 58 percent to 38 percent. The Democratic victory hinged on crossover voters, people voting for Romney, and the Democratic nominee, former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp. The odds were stacked against her, but Heitkamp, 57, proved to be a fierce campaigner and a very likable candidate. Even her Republican adversaries admitted to her likability. During the campaign the National Republican Senatorial Committee released an ad saying "Heidi Heitkamp: you might like her, but on the issues she's wrong for North Dakota." Heitkamp narrowly pulled out a victory, defeating Republican nominee Rick Berg by less than 1 percent of the vote.

Indiana was a story of Republican failure. In May 2012 longtime incumbent Republican Senator Dick Lugar lost his primary battle to Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock. Lugar's loss was considered an upset for Republicans, but initially the conventional wisdom was that because Indiana is generally more friendly to Republicans than Democrats, Mourdock was the favorite, and Democratic candidate Joe Donnelly, a member of Indiana's congressional delegation, had an uphill battle. Everything changed in October, however, when Mourdock, 61, answered a question about his stance on abortion during a televised Senate debate, saying "life is that gift from God that I think even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen." The remarks would have certainly been problematic as an isolated incident, but the situation was made worse for Republicans because of remarks made by another Republican Senate contender, Todd Akin in Missouri. In August, Akin had drawn a lot of criticism from both sides of the aisle for saying that women rarely get pregnant in "legitimate rape." Both candidates went up in flames. Mourdock's loss was particularly hard though, because it yielded a pick-up for Democrats in the Senate.

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quicklist: 7title: Best Dressedcategory: Michelle Obama and Ann Romneytext: The two women have very different styles, but both of them stunned audiences across the country more than once during the course of the campaign. The two most memorable outfits came during the Republican and Democratic conventions. Ann Romney's red Oscar De La Renta shirtdress at the Republican National Convention in August was a show-stealer at the weeklong event, and Michelle Obama's custom-made pink sleeveless dress from designer Tracy Reese worn on the first night of the DNC was so well received the dress was made available for purchase. It will hit stores on Dec. 1.

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quicklist: 8title: Favorite Write-In Candidatecategory: Hank the Cattext: Tim Kaine and George Allen weren't the only two candidates in the hotly contested Virginia Senate race. Hank, a Maine Coon cat living in Springfield, Va., entered the race in February, and ultimately received more than 7,000 votes in the race. Hank had a compelling life story. According to his website, the cat sat on death row as a kitten, where he was saved just before his execution by the animal rescue group "Animal Allies." And don't think that adorableness is the only reason behind Hank's success. The feline ran a fierce campaign, including releasing an ad in August titled "Vote the Humans Out."

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