Midterm campaign ads: Here are our picks for standouts and why we chose them


We know. You’ve been inundated with campaign commercials and you can’t wait for Election Day so they’ll. Just. Stop.

We published a story Wednesday that shows the good people of Phoenix have been deluged with the most number of ads this cycle, thanks to a heap of contested races. Other hard-hit spots: central Florida and Reno, Nevada.

Here at the USA TODAY Network we have viewed more than our fair share of this year’s ads and we asked staffers both in Washington and throughout the Network to pick one ad that really stands out this election cycle. The race was on to grab “Doors” by MJ Hegar, a candidate for U.S. House from Texas. That ad was a crowd favorite in our newsroom – and, as you might have noticed on your social media feeds, the rest of the planet.

Please reach out to us on Twitter and Facebook and tell us which ads moved you and why. Here are our picks:

Ad: “Doors”

Who’s running it: MJ Hegar, U.S. House race, Texas

Chosen by: Bill Theobald, special correspondent

This ad went viral because of the great story that it told and the compelling way it showed the path that MJ Mehar took from daughter of an abused mother to ROTC member, to jet mechanic, to rescue helicopter pilot, to medal-winning hero, to Mom, to advocate for women in the military, to candidate – all in 209 seconds.

Ad: “Goalkeeper”

Who’s running it: Amy McGrath, U.S. House race, Kentucky

Chosen by: Maureen Groppe, Washington correspondent

Sure, it’s an ad featuring a strong woman – and former Marine fighter pilot – smacking away soccer balls as stand-ins for the “cheap shots” she says GOP Rep. Any Barr has thrown at her. But it’s the closing shot of her (Republican) husband and young children cheering on “mommy” that really makes the ad.

Ad: “Casey”

Who ran it: GOP nominee for governor of Florida Ron Desantis during his primary

Chosen by: Eliza Collins, Washington correspondent

The ad went as close to President Donald Trump as possible, which proved to be helpful with Trump-friendly GOP base voters who voted in the primary. However, it’ll be interesting to see if an ad like that could hurt DeSantis in the general election because Florida is not a deep red state and he’s facing a formidable opponent.

Ad: “Women Rising”

Who’s running it: Serve America PAC

Chosen by: Nicole Gaudiano, Washington correspondent

With Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising” playing in the background, this ad showcases the credentials of women warriors running their first congressional campaigns in this historic “year of the woman” while calling on viewers to “serve America” by voting. Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, if you were thinking of staying home on Election Day, consider this ad’s compelling argument from candidate MJ Hegar: “I bled on foreign soil for people to have the right to vote.”

Ad: “So Conservative”

Run by: Kemp for Governor, Inc.

Chosen by: Cat Hofacker, politics intern

In less than 30 seconds, Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp manages to hit just about every buzzword Republican candidates like to use – guns, criminal illegals, regulations – as he positions himself as a Peach State version of President Trump.

Ad: “Our Friends”

Who’s running it: Sherrod Brown, U.S. Senate race, Ohio

Chosen by: Jackie Borchardt, Columbus bureau chief, Cincinnati Enquirer (part of the USA TODAY Network)

Democratic incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown’s lighthearted ad featuring his rescue dog Franklin is a welcome respite from the deluge of dark, scary negative ads telling voters to oppose Brown or his Republican challenger Congressman Jim Renacci. In the ad, Brown touts his work pushing the Food and Drug Administration to investigate tainted pet treats from China, which led to stores pulling the products from shelves. But the longtime Ohio politician is upstaged by Franklin, who has a following on social media and the campaign calls its “Manager of Morale.”

Ad: “The Courage to Change”

Who’s running it: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 2018 campaign

Chosen by: Todd Spangler, Washington correspondent, Detroit Free Press (part of the USA TODAY Network)

There are a lot of great ads out there this cycle, on TV and the internet, but this 2-minute-long ad, from someone who practically no one had heard of before, went viral and allowed her to defeat a 10-term incumbent in the primary. Great images, great message, great music and passion – it’s got it all.

Ad: “Mr. Wilson”

Who’s running it: Bob Menendez, U.S. Senate race, New Jersey

Chosen by: Herb Jackson, Washington correspondent, The (Bergen County, N.J.) Record and USA TODAY Network New Jersey

In his bid for another term after being admonished by the Senate ethics committee, Menendez has made his opponent’s management of a drug company that raised the price of cancer drugs a centerpiece of the campaign. This ad features a gripping moment where Menendez reaches out as a cancer patient describes telling his wife and daughters he didn’t want to go on living.