The political ads almost broadcast

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Modern campaigns are often scientifically plotted operations that leave little to chance. Nowhere is this more obvious than with advertising, which is carefully fashioned from polling, focus groups and demographic research.

But sometimes even the best-laid plans go awry. Consider the story of Ben Stein, George W. Bush and the commercial that never aired.

Late in the summer of 2000, Mr. Bush’s campaign strategists saw their position in the polls improving and got a little cocky. They arranged for Mr. Stein, a comedian and former speechwriter for Richard M. Nixon, to reprise his breakout role as the economics teacher in the film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” for a commercial mocking Al Gore....

Every presidential campaign has commercials that are relegated to the dustbin before they are broadcast. Sometimes, after a second look, the message seems not quite right. Other times, new developments can intervene, forcing a shift in political tactics. And occasionally, the boss just says no....

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