The general election has begun! And so has the onslaught of campaign ads. Which ones succeed? Which fail? In Ad Watch, we review them as they come out. Today: President Obama's campaign says Mitt Romney's embrace of Donald Trump says something about his character, while Karl Rove's Super PAC says that while Bain Capital might be bad, Obama's "Wall Street games" are worse. Plus: A secret Canadian in Texas.

The Ad: Barack Obama, "Two Republican Nominees"

The Issues: Character -- that John McCain has it and Mitt Romney doesn't.

The Message: While McCain told his supporters they were wrong when they said Obama was a Muslim or an Arab, Romney is hosting a fundraiser with born-again birther Donald Trump. Trump is only popular among Republicans (he was an Obama supporter in 2008) because he fake-ran for president as a birther. This was his core issue! He had no other issue. The one-and-a-half minute Web video shows highlights of Trump's birth certificate buffoonery, including his refusal to actually look at a copy of Obama's birth certificate when it was presented by CNN's John King: "I'll look at it later, I don't need to look at your copy."

Who'll See It: Reporters, political nerds, people who want to see a Trump montage. The video is Web-only.

Who It's For: Reporters, so they'll write more stories about how dumb it is that Romney is hanging out with Trump.

What Everyone Else Thinks: Trump is very entertaining, no wonder he has a reality show.

The Effect: This is one of the more amusing web videos of the general election -- though that's to Trump's credit more than the campaigns. B


The Ad: American Crossroads, "Public Equity"

The Issues: Obama's handling of the economy -- that he made unwise investments in green energy companies.

The Message: Mitt Romney fired people at Bain? Well so did Obama during the auto bailout -- 100,000 of them. Plus, under his leadership, companies like Solyndra got lot so of money and then went bankrupt. It doesn't argue that private equity is good, but that Obama is bad at it. Obama "played Wall Street games with our money."

Who'll See It: Politico's Mike Allen reports that this is the one-minute version "so it can be focus-grouped."

Who It's For: Reporters who've been obsessively covering the Bain story. This ad follows the strategy Romney took in his 2002 campaign for Massachusetts governor, when he responded to his opponent's Bain attacks by suggesting her husband made even more money off layoffs.

What Everyone Else Thinks: So the message is, Romney's bad but Obama's worse?

The Effect: The ad puts obama's floating head the body of a trader, which is kind of funny. But it's a fairly standard political ad with a grim voiceover. And it the ad seems to accept the argument that private equity firms are vampires. C+


The Ad: Mitt Romney, "Not Even Half"

The Issues: Obama can't create jobs.

The Message: The at curiously compliments the officially-unaffiliated ad from American Crossroads, seen above. Obama is bad at creating jobs, because he poured a bunch of money into green companies that went bankrupt. And those companies got money not because of Earth-friendly ideas, but because they were run by buddies: "More than $16 billion have gone to companies like Solyndra, that are linked to big Obama and Democrat donors. The inspector general said contracts were steered to 'friends and family.' Obama is giving taxpayer money to big donors. And then watching them lose it. Good for them. Bad for us."

Who'll See It: This one-minute video appears to be web-only. So, dedicated Romney fans and reporters will be the only ones who see it.

Who It's For: Like the American Crossroads ad, this ad is meant to shift the conversation from Romney's record at Bain to Obama's job record.

What Everyone Else Thinks: I have a headache? The ad has an unpleasant flickering effect as the standard political slogans and still photos flash across screen.

The Effect: The ad does a good job of arguing that Solyndra's bankruptcy is an example of Obama's failure, not the company's itself. But it's just a crib sheet for reporters who don't want to dig through Lexis Nexis. There's not much here that would stick with regular voters -- not only is there a weird flickering, but it features the same tired female narrator.  C


The Ad: Texas Conservatives Fund, the Super PACs social media campaign on PinterestTumblr.

The Issues: The record of Ted Cruz, the Tea Partying former Texas solicitor general who's running for Senate. He's facing David Dewhurst, who's backed by Gov. Rick Perry, in the Republican primary Tuesday.

The Message: The pro-Dewhurst social media campaign on Tumblr, noticed by BuzzFeed's Zeke Miller and seen in the sample above, is the less funny and more mean version of Texts from Hillary. The Tumblr argues Ted Cruz isn't one of us. He likes Goldman Sachs, and he's a secret Canadian. (Cruz was born in Calgary.)

Who'll See It: Reporters, nerds. It seems unlikely curious voters would actually search Pinterest for joke senate candidate accounts.

Who It's For: This ad appears to be striving for the appearance of being directed at the youth. But a faux Cruz text like, "[To PolitiFact] Stop it. How am I supposed to beat Dew when you keep on debunking all my attacks on his record?" is very unlikely to go viral on Facebook.

What Everyone Else Thinks: Political people aren't funny. 

The Effect: This ad highlights that Super PAC people have so much money they don't know what to do with it. C-