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: The Republican National Committee says Obama is trying to pass the buck, while the DNC says Mitt Romney is at war with women.

The Ad: Republican National Committee, "Hype and Blame"

The Issues: Obama's 2008 promises.

The Message: Obama didn't live up to them. The ad alternates between clips of Obama's speeches—“The real question is will this country be better off, four years from now?”—and statistics (in this case, "no" is strongly suggested with poll numbers.)

Who It's For: Youth inspired by Obama four years ago. Soaring speech clips are played over music The Atlantic Wire staff had trouble placing -- something between "Euro synth" and "cheesy Enya remix" -- which all agreed was intended to sound "cool."  

What Everyone Else Thinks: What is that cheesy synth doing in a political ad?

The Effect: If you had your eyes closed, you'd think this was a pro-Obama ad. The final question is good: "What do you do if you don't have a record to run on?" But it would be better if there were clips of today's Obama to contrast to four years ago's Obama. C


The Ad: Democratic National Committee, "Romney, Bachmann, McDonnell: Turning Back the Clock on Women's Heath"

The Issues: Tying Mitt Romney to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Michele Bachmann on abortion.

The Message: Romney is just like anti-abortion Bachmann and McDonnell, who signed into law new abortion retractions, though after the deletion of a requirement that a woman get a transvaginal ultrasound before the medical procedure. McDonnell and Bachmann have endorsed Romney, but it's not fair to imply that the endorsee shares the views of the endorser. So for justification, at the end, there's a clip of Romney saying Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

Who It's For: Young Women. The music really sounds like it's taken from a Destiny's Child song.

What Everyone Else Thinks: This election is not about abortion.

The Effect: Bachmann does look creepy and sadistic when, near the end, she smiles while talking about sponsoring legislation to force women to listen to the heartbeat of the fetus before an abortion. B-


The Ad: Jon Bruning, "Compare"

The Issues: Bruning, a Republican, is running for Senate in Nebraska against Bob Kerrey, a popular former governor and senator who's been living in New York for the last decade. 

The Message: Kerrey is just like Obama. This is a tricky case to make, since Kerrey's been out of office since 2001, before Obama was even a senator. Here's how Bruning tries, as Politico's James Hohmann points out: "Bob Kerrey says Obamacare doesn't go far enough. Bob Kerrey was the deciding vote against a balanced budget amendment. So, after Barack Obama's spending spree, we're nearly $16 trillion in debt. I support a balanced budget amendment. I'm Jon Bruning, I approve this message and I know that defeating Bob Kerrey AND Barack Obama is the right choice for our future."

Who It's For: Nebraska voters who have fond memories of Kerrey but don't like Obama.

What Everyone Else Thinks: Bruning hasn't even won the Republican primary yet. But it's interesting to see how Obama's record might affect other campaigns for national office, particularly in more conservative states. In October, Public Policy Polling found Mitt Romney beating Obama by 51 percent to 38 percent. Gallup found Nebraska was one of the states where Obama's approval rating dropped the most from 2010 to 2011 -- only two states showed a sharper decline. Republicans want to win a majority in the Senate this year, and Nebraska's seat is one of their best chances to do it.

The Effect: Bruning looks warm and friendly, while Kerrey looks old and kind of weird. But there's nothing particularly unique about the ad. B