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Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: The best and the worst of this campaign season

Published: Sunday, Aug. 2 2015 5:18 p.m. MDT

President Barack Obama speaks as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and moderator Bob Schieffer listen during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pool-Michael Reynolds) (Michael Reynolds, AP) President Barack Obama speaks as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and moderator Bob Schieffer listen during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pool-Michael Reynolds) (Michael Reynolds, AP)

The election may be over, but the 20/20 hindsight praise and criticism continues (we call it columnist security). Here are some of the the best ("pure genius at work") and the worst ("what were you thinking!?") happenings of the campaign season.

Best example of an overworked political expression used by experts and pundits (us included) across the spectrum that never occurred: The "Romney Tsunami" prediction of a huge Utah GOP sweep had local Republicans excited and Utah Democrats scared. Although Mitt Romney won 73 percent of the Utah vote, the storm turned into a drizzle without great coattail effect.

Worst example of political spin: Democrats' election night claim of major election success. Losing legislative seats and getting clobbered in all statewide races, while maintaining the status quo in one congressional race and Salt Lake County races, does not qualify for astounding success.

Mia Love and Jim Matheson talk during a break in their debate on the Doug Wright Show in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012.  (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Mia Love and Jim Matheson talk during a break in their debate on the Doug Wright Show in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Best TV ad: This year did not spark the creative juices of political advertisers, but Ben McAdams' "Political Bus" ad featuring Republican, Democratic and independent city officials was clever, upbeat and scored well with viewers tired of negative attack ads.

Second best TV ad: The ad supporting Mia Love aligning statements made by President Barack Obama and Rep. Jim Matheson was a simple and clever message that almost worked.

Best political slogan: Orrin Hatch's campaign developed "It's Utah's time to lead" that cleverly combined the senator's potential leadership on the powerful Senate Finance Committee in alignment with a potential Romney administration.

Worst plagiarism of the best slogan: Hatch's Democratic challenger, Scott Howell, distributed stickers on weekend newspapers with the slogan, "It is Utah's time to lead." Many readers thought this was a Hatch ad but with different colors.

Utah Senatorial  candidates incumbent Senator Orrin Hatch , left, and Scott Howell after debating on KSL radio Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.  
 (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah Senatorial candidates incumbent Senator Orrin Hatch , left, and Scott Howell after debating on KSL radio Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Second best political slogan: Howell used the "WE" inside his name to promote unity and harmony. This was shrewd multi-tasking on a tight budget.

Most surprising use of campaign resources: For the first time anyone can remember, a candidate for the Utah House, Anne-Marie Lampropoulos, used radio and television advertising. Lampropoulos ran an aggressive campaign against long-time Democratic lawmaker Carol Spackman Moss, but came up short.

Best turnout effort: The LDS Church encouraged members (even cancelled all meetings) to attend party caucuses in the early spring. The enormous turnout, aided by the Hatch campaign and other grassroots organizing efforts, overwhelmed the tea party, bolstered mainstream candidates and set the tone for the entire Utah election.

Best party chair leadership under difficult circumstances (tie): GOP Chairman Thomas Wright quickly and efficiently defused controversies in the nominating convention for the second and fourth congressional districts. These controversies could have hyperventilated into a real mess, but Wright's cool demeanor prevented problems.

Mark Crockett, left, and Ben McAdams, Salt Lake County mayoral candidates, talk during a break in their debate on the Doug Wright show on KSL Radio in Salt Lake City, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012.  (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Mark Crockett, left, and Ben McAdams, Salt Lake County mayoral candidates, talk during a break in their debate on the Doug Wright show on KSL Radio in Salt Lake City, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Best party chairman leadership under difficult circumstances (tie): Democrat Chairman Jim Dabakis did not waste the party's limited resources trying to move Utah voters away from Romney. Instead, he encouraged Utahns to vote for Romney and local Democrats — a questionable tactic at the time, but one that paid off.

Best use of a transsexual theme in a campaign slogan: We scoffed at Jim Bradley's reference to cross-dressing transsexual's support of Lady Gaga in his prominent billboard. But it worked.

Worst reason for Democratic support for McAdams for county mayor: Dozens — if not hundreds — of Salt Lake City Democrats have been scheming behind the scenes to replace McAdams in the state Senate. This maneuvering has been going on for some time.

Best example of classy statesmanship: After his concession speech, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Cooke ventured over to the Republican election night party to offer his congratulations to Herbert. The general showed real class.

Worst waste of money, time and effort: Political activists from both sides have expressed concerns about all the money and advertising dumped by national interest groups and Super PACs in our state and in the national media markets. Why? Most of the TV and radio ads generated by these organizations were awful. They lacked creativity and any sense of message for intelligent voters. Billions of dollars were spent, without net effect, in the country or our state. This includes the formulaic advertisements generated by the Republican and Democratic national campaign committees. The stuff developed and produced by our local campaigns and PR agencies were much better.

Biggest winners: Everyone who stuck their necks out, put their good names on the line and ran for an office — win or lose — in this wild and crazy election. Good government depends on good people seeking office. The potential for exhilaration and ecstasy is always high. But so is the potential for devastation and despair. To the winners, we say: Be humble and magnanimous. To the losers we say: Keep your head up. Given some time and perspective, you will view it as a great experience.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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