The envelope, please

    The devastating TV ad credited with sinking Arlen Specter’s re-election hopes last year has won the campaign ad version of an Oscar.

    The ad called “The Switch” featured file footage of Specter crowing that his party-switch would enable him to be “re-elected.” The 30-second spot won a Reed Award, selected annually by Campaigns & Elections magazine, and handed out last Friday at a ceremony in Washington.

    The category was “Toughest Television Advertisement,” and it was produced by J.J. Balaban of the Philadelphia-based Campaign Group, which did the media for U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak.

    “I’m trying to fend off all the fans, they’re all over me,” Balaban deadpanned when I called to ask if how thrilled he was with the honor.

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    “It’s bittersweet because Joe’s not in the U.S. Senate,” Balaban said. “I can’t walk around feeling cocky.” Sestak lost to Republican Pat Toomey in the November election.

    Balaban said he and this team developed the ad because they knew President Obama would do an ad for Specter, and they had to respond.

    “The Switch” opened with a demonic-looking Specter saying “my change in party will enable me to be re-elected.” It then featured Specter sharing love with George W. Bush, came back to the “re-elected” footage once more, then finished with a still shot of Specter and Sarah Palin.

    Balaban credits Campaign Group co-founder Neil Oxman with the tag line for ad: “Arlen Specter switched parties to save one job – his, not yours.”

    You can view the ad up above.

    Balaban said the spot worked because it captured “an unease people had had with Arlen Specter for decades. An ad like this can’t really work if it’s totally invented.”

    The great video of Specter, Balaban said, was found by a junior-level staffer in the Sestak campaign named Kipp Hebert. Balaban said the video came to him with a note saying it “might be helpful.”

    “Now I tell junior staffers on campaigns that I know what they do is hard,” Balaban said. “They do a lot of grunt work and don’t’ get a lot of glory, but they have the ability to turn a United States senate campaign around.”

    The Campaign Group won a second Reed Award for its work on the Sestak campaign under the category “Best Bare-knuckled Street Fight Victory.”

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