2014 Is Officially the Most Bizarre Election Cycle Ever


What a long, strange trip it's been. And we've still got a few weeks before Election Day for things to get even stranger.

Normally a midterm election would be much less exciting than a presidential one. But this year has featured weird feuds, ridiculous gaffes and candidates who just should know better. In an age theoretically marked by bland politicians and focus-grouped messages, 2014 has been a gift from above for those who revel in the rich pageant of political ineptitude.

Biggest fan: We start, of course, in Florida, where maybe the strangest political event of the entire year occurred Wednesday night. The gubernatorial debate between Democrat Charlie Crist and Republican incumbent Rick Scott was all set to take place, but only Crist walked out onstage.

As the moderators announced in bemused disbelief, Scott was not appearing because he was angry that Crist was keeping a small fan under his lectern to keep him cool when the debate rules stated that no electronic devices were allowed. Watch the awkwardness unfold:

Six minutes later, probably seeing the PR disaster already unfolding on social media, Scott emerged and the debate went on. But the damage has likely been done for Scott's campaign, all over Crist's fan.

Meanwhile, in Kentucky: Midterm elections are often seen as a referendum on the president. But neither candidate in the Bluegrass State seems to be able to deal with President Obama and his legacy.

Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes is so worried about being tied to Obama in a relatively conservative state that when asked point-blank who she voted for in 2012, she wouldn't say. This refusal, along with other odd dealings with press, led the New Republic to accuse her of "running the worst Senate campaign of the year."

Not to be outdone, incumbent (and Senate minority leader) Mitch McConnell has an Obama problem of his own. Kentucky's state health care exchange, Kynect, is extremely popular and basically serves as the poster child for the health care overhaul. So McConnell is stuck both hating on Obamacare (it needs to be pulled out "by the roots") and saying that Kynect should stick around, even though that is impossible because they are, you know, part of the same thing.

General WTF: The highlights of the recent news cycle, from Islamic State militants to Ebola, have proved to be a potent recipe for crazy in politicians running for office.

Take Arkansas Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, who's running for Senate. Cotton told people during a town hall meeting that the Islamic State was working with Mexican drug cartels and could be infiltrating the border to attack Arkansas. Multiple other candidates are facetiously linking Ebola to border security, stoking fears that infected foreigners will stream over a border that's "so porous that anyone can walk across it," as New Hampshire Senate candidate Scott Brown put it.

Then there's Joni Ernst, Republican Senate candidate in Iowa, who has referenced a conspiracy theory that the United Nations will round up rural Americans and force them into city centers. She also thinks states should be able to arrest federal officials for implementing Obamacare, later stressing that states can overrule federal law. (Hint: They can't. We had a whole war about it and everything.)

Only in Vermont: None of the above hold a candle, though, to the candidates for governor in Vermont, all of whom were allowed onto a stage earlier this month to talk about their vision for the state. What resulted was calls for secession, warnings about a nuclear bomb destroying Lake Champlain and a heated argument over rest stop bathrooms. 

A highlight? Pete Diamondstone of the Liberty Union Party in his jorts:

You do you, politicians. Just don't be too mad if voter turnout isn't all that high, given what we've got to work with.