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 celebrates his decision to support gay marriage, Massachusetts Republicans attack Elizabeth Warren's ancestry, and a superPAC defends Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

The Ad: Barack Obama, "Mitt Romney: Backwards on Equality"

The Issues: Gay rights

The Message: The Obama campaign's rapid response came hours after Obama endorsed gay marriage, Politico's James Hohmann notes. His campaign posted this ad attacking Romney for not favoring all kinds of rights for gay people, like adoption and visiting partners in the hospital. In a particularly low blow, it says Romney is to the right of George W. Bush on civil unions. Bush's campaign pushed for anti-gay marriage state constitutional amendments to be on the ballot in several swing states in 2004. "President Obama is moving us forward, Mitt Romney would take us back," the ad says.

Who It's For: Young people who are far more supportive of gay rights than old folks.

What Everyone Else Thinks: This looks awfully politically calculating for something Obama said was a moral issue -- he even said his new position was based on his Christian faith.

The Effect: Obama raised $1 million in 90 minutes after he endorsed gay marriage. It won't win many people over who don't already support gay marriage -- despite or because of the inclusion of clips of George W. Bush helps -- but it's pretty good for cheerleading for his supporters. B


The Ad: Restore Our Future, "Mother's Day"

The Issues: A month ago Democratic consultant Hilary Rosen said Ann Romney had never worked a day in her life.

The Message: Obama and his supporters are attacking Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, who raised five kids and battled two debilitating diseases. "Happy Mother's Day from Barack Obama's team," the female narrator says sarcastically.

Who It's For: Ann Romney is way more personally popular than her husband, who is polling behind Obama among women by 12 points. Women don't like to see moms attacked. The ad also features a clip from Bill Maher, whom conservatives can't stand.

What Everyone Else Thinks: It's time to move on from this one.

The Effect: It makes liberals look like their support for women is insincere. But it's time to move past this one Twitter spat. C


The Ad: Massachusetts State Republican Party, "Fraudster"

The Issues: Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren was once listed in a lawyer directory as a Native American, even though her Native American ancestor was way back in the past -- her great-great-great grandmother. 

The Message: Attacking Warren for listing herself as a Native American is a way to say she's an unqualified affirmative action hire without saying she got her job just cause she's a woman. It also makes her look unethical. And the ad features a long clip of a painfully awkward press conference in which Warren stupidly said the family had always talked about their heritage because her grandfather had high cheekbones "like all the Indians do."

Who It's For: Massachusetts voters who might already be prone to skepticism of Warren as a fancy Harvard professor. The state has a history of resistance to taking race into consideration in the educational environment.

What Everyone Else Thinks: What does Warren's long-dead ancestor have to do with the economy?

The Effect: The most damaging part of this video is the clip of Warren trying to explain herself. A-


The Ad: Ending Spending Action Fund, "Courage in Wisconsin: Scott Walker"

The Issues: The vote to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker after he successfully passed legislation in the state to curb public sector union power.

The Message: Guys, it's not about unions, it's about having the strength to do what's right to balance the budget even when it's unpopular. A year ago, 100,000 people protested the union bill in the state's capitol. 

Who It's For: People who think Walker went too far but aren't sure they want to vote him out of office, people who are worried about spending, people who buy into the idea that there was some moment in American history when politicians were less partisan and more focused on public service.

What Everyone Else Thinks: The ad doesn't even try to defend the union law on the merits.

The Effect: The ad makes Walker seem like a good guy, but it's telling that the ad doesn't even say the word "union," much less make the case that unions had too much power and had to be reined in. C