There is one thing most politicians have in common: attack ads. But while every campaign -- from city council to the White House -- is rife with criticisms, some politicians are better than others at finding that sweet spot between poignant and preposterous.
Then there are those that completely miss the mark. From "dancing" horses to "vulture" capitalists, here's a look at eight of the most memorable attack-ad flops.
Attacker: Democratic Party
Attacked: Ann Romney
Attack: The DNC released an ad July 18 meant to be the first in a series starring the Romneys' Olympic-qualifying dressage horse, Rafalca. The ad drew comparisons between Mitt Romney "dancing around the issues" and his "dancing horse."
Backlash: After the ad's release, Ann Romney, who uses dressage horses as part of her therapy for multiple sclerosis, expressed offense at the ad in an interview with ABC's Robin Roberts. The DNC announced that same evening that no more ads attacking Romney's MS therapy would be run, and publicly apologized for attacking Ann Romney. Ads focused on Rafalca and dressage, however, will still be aired.
|'True Hero' Trip-Up|
Attacker: Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill.
Attacked: Democratic Senate candidate Tammy Duckworth
Attack: During a town hall in early July, Walsh said Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, was not a 'true' hero because she often referenced her military career on the campaign trail.
"My God, that's all she talks about," Walsh said. "Our true heroes, the men and women who served us, my God, that's the last thing in the world they talk about. That's why we are so indebted and in awe of what they have done."
Duckworth had both of her legs amputated after an RPG shot down the Black Hawk helicopter she was piloting during her first tour of duty in Iraq.
Backlash: In the 10 days following Walsh's criticism Duckworth raised $85,000 in online donations, a huge spike from the "couple thousand" dollars her campaign typically raises in a week, according to her campaign.
Attacker: Michigan Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra
Attacked: Incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow
Attack: Hoekstra, a former U.S. House member, sought to blame Stabenow for American jobs being lost to China in an ad that aired in Michigan during the Super Bowl. But the ad, which featured an Asian-American actress speaking in faked broken English while riding through rice paddies, instead ended up offending the Asian-American community and being condemned as racially "offensive."
Backlash: Hoekstra was widely condemned for the ad and ended up scrubbing it from the Internet. It no longer appears on his website, Facebook page or YouTube channel.
Stabenow launched an online "money bomb" off of the ad that raised close to $170,000, about $25,000 more than Hoekstra spent on the ad.
Hoekstra has since rebounded from the negative publicity surrounding the ad and is likely to win his GOP primary race on Aug. 7. Since the ad aired in February, Hoekstra has cut Stabenow's lead in half, although he still trails by 12 points according to a Jun 25 NBC News/Marist poll.
|'Corporate Raider' Gone Awry|
Attacker: GOP presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry
Attacked: Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney
Attack: During the cutthroat Republican primary, Gingrich and the super PAC supporting him dug into Romney for his tenure as the head of Bain Capital. Gingrich criticized Romney for laying off workers, and Gingrich's super PAC dubbed Romney a "corporate raider."
Fellow GOP contender Rick Perry jumped on the Bain attack line, as well, calling Romney a "vulture capitalist."
Backlash: A slew of Republicans criticized Gingrich and Perry for what some deemed anti-free-market attacks.
"It's ignorant, dumb, it is building something we should be fighting in America: ignorance of the economic system, playing on the dumbest most ridiculous ideas about how you grow jobs," former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said of the attacks in an January interview with Fox. "What they are doing to Mitt right now is totally, absolutely unfair and bad for the Republican Party."
Both candidates soon backed off attacks on Romney's tenure at Bain.
|The Fluke Attack|
Attacker: Conservative radio tycoon Rush Limbaugh
Attacked: Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke
Attack: After Fluke testified before Congress in support of health care coverage for contraception, Limbaugh took to his golden microphone and went on a tirade against Fluke, calling her a "slut" and a "prostitute."
"She wants to be paid to have sex," Limbaugh said. "She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We're the pimps."
Backlash: More than 40 advertisers pulled their ads from Limbaugh's two-hour radio program in response to his comments. His criticism sparked two "Stop Rush" websites, a "Boycott Rush" Twitter hashtag, an anti-Rush Twitter handle and a petition signed by more than 400,000 people calling on advertisers to abandon the show.
|The Accidental Attack Ad|
Attacker: GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee
Attacked: GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney
Attack: After creating an attack ad against Romney, Huckabee surprised reporters by announcing that he wasn't going to release the ad, and that he was going to focus on running "a positive campaign." While those in attendance at the event did get to view the spot, the Huckabee campaign said it would not run the ad on television, as originally planned.
The ad, however, did air seven times in the next two days, sparking questions about the Huckabee campaign's motives and strategy.
Backlash: The Huckabee campaign was originally surprised to hear that the ads had run when it began receiving calls from reporters across the country. After an investigation, it was determined that the ads had been run mistakenly by network affiliates that had already received the spot to air before Huckabee announced that it would not be used. The Huckabee camp apologized, and the ad ceased to run, although it is still on the Internet.
|Ballot Access Blunder|
Attacker: Massachusetts Democratic Party
Attacked: Mitt Romney
Attack: When Romney returned to Massachusetts to run for governor after living in Utah for three years, the state's Democratic Party tried to get him disqualified from the ballot.
The Democrats argued that because Romney paid taxes in Utah for three years while running the Salt Lake City Olympic games, his candidacy violated a Massachusetts law requiring gubernatorial candidates to live in the state for the seven years prior to their candidacy.
The Massachusetts Ballot Law Commission threw out the Democrats' challenge, pointing out that Romney owned a house in Massachusetts and had for the past 30 years.
Backlash: The bipartisan commission's unanimous ruling in Romney's favor boosted his candidacy and made the Democrats look petty for challenging his residency.
After the ruling, Romney said the challenge was "designed to be an embarrassment and it ended up being an embarrassment not to me but" to the Democrats, the New York Times reported at the time.
|The Daisy Disaster|
Attacker: Lyndon B. Johnson
Attacked: Barry Goldwater
Attack: Lyndon B. Johnson released this doozy of an ad against Barry Goldwater in 1964. The ad, which features a little girl pulling petals off a flower, then transitions into a nuclear bomb launch. "These are the stakes," Johnson's voiceover says. "To make a world in which all of God's children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die."
Backlash: The ad, which attacked Goldwater for comments made about detonating nuclear weapons in Vietnam, ran only once (as was originally planned), and was considered highly controversial for intentionally scaring voters with the prospect of nuclear war.