The worst ad for the 2018 midterm elections has already aired

Would-be Democratic congressman Dan Helmer releases awful "Top Gun" parody ad to criticize opponent

By Matthew Sheffield
September 18, 2017 7:54PM (UTC)
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Dan Helmer, a candidate for Virginia's 10th Congressional District, appears in an ad critical of GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock, the incumbent. (Screenshot)

We're more than a year away from November 2018, but the worst ad for the upcoming mid-term elections has already been run by Dan Helmer, a Democrat running in Virginia's 10th congressional district.

Patterned after a cheesy scene in the 80s movie "Top Gun," in which Navy pilot Tom Cruise serenades an unsuspecting woman at a bar, the campaign ad features Helmer, wearing a t-shirt labeled "VETERAN," criticizing incumbent GOP congresswoman Barbara Comstock in verse. Specifically, the song is the 1964 Righteous Brothers hit "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," which Helmer's team tweaked to be "You've Lost That Centrist Feeling."


Aside from the awful singing, the reality is that many voting-age Americans have never seen or even heard of "Top Gun" or the scene which the clip parodies. Younger-age adults have been panning the clip on YouTube, where negative votes outnumber positive ones by more than 5-to-1.

"I would move to VA to vote against you simply for this piece of shit video," wrote one YouTube commenter.

"I'm a democrat and this is the stupidest thing in history why did you think this was a good idea you idiot," wrote another.


It's unclear as of this writing whether the sheer awfulness that is this ad was a deliberate attempt to go viral. Terrible campaign ads certainly have been known to gain attention; for instance, the infamous "Demon Sheep" ad run by former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina in California's 2010 GOP Senate primary; or the "smoking guy" ad that Herman Cain aired in his 2012 Republican presidential campaign.

So while the internet is mocking Dan Helmer today, at the very least, he's being talked about. And Helmer has succeeded in spreading awareness of the criticism of Comstock, leveled by progressives, who point out that, despite identifying as a centrist, she is much further to the right than she lets on.

Comstock made what seems like a veiled allusion to the Top Gun–referencing ad in a Tweet earlier today:


Matthew Sheffield

A writer, web developer, and former tv producer, Matthew Sheffield covers politics, media, and technology for Salon. You can email him via or follow him on Twitter.

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