Why are the presidential candidates spending so much time to raise so much money? To buy TV ads. Which ones succeed? Which fail? In Ad Watch, we review them as they come out. Today: Mitt Romney makes his first negative TV ad about Obama's "doing fine" comment, Obama says Romney grew the debt in Massachusetts, and a Republican group urges action on Iran.
The Ad: Mitt Romney, "Doing Fine?"
The Issues: Obama said the private sector is "doing fine" compared to the huge job losses in the public sector, which is true, but a dumb thing to say.
The Message: Obama is out of touch with regular Americans. A lot of people are out of work, and Obama said "the private sector is doing fine," which the ad repeats three times. "How can President Obama fix our economy if he doesn't understand it's broken?" the ad asks. The ad uses the same music as 2008 ad, aired by the Obama campaign, that attacked John McCain for saying "the fundamentals of our economy are strong," The Huffington Post's Jon Ward points out. And nearly the same tagline. The 2008 ad ended: "How can John McCain fix our economy if he doesn't understand it's broken?"
Who'll See It: Romney and the Republican National Committee have already tested out ads on the "doing fine" comment, and apparently they were pleased with the results. This ad is for TV, and it's Romney's first negative one of the general election.
Who It's For: Perhaps it's for people who personally like Obama but aren't sure they can trust him to steady the economy. While the ad is negative, it's not that harsh. Karl Rove's group American Crossroads found that in focus groups, the harshest attacks on Obama tend to backfire, The New York Times' Jeremy W. Peters reported in May. It's also for nerds -- your average voter is not going to remember the 2008 McCain ad.
What Everyone Else Thinks: If you look at the charts, Obama has a point.
The Effect: Obama looks out of touch, and the parallels with the 2008 ad will get political reporters' attention. But nothing else makes the ad stand out. B+
The Ad: Barack Obama, "Number One"
The Issues: Mitt Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts.
The Message: Under Romney, Massachusetts was "first in debt" and "47th in job creation," so Romney's policies "didn't work then, and won't work now." There are a lot of authoritative-looking charts.
Who'll See It: The TV ad will air in a now-familiar set of swing states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Who It's For: Probably the same set as the Romney ad -- true swing voters who wonder whether Romney could make the economy better faster.
What Everyone Else Thinks: The unemployment rate when Romney left office was 4.7 percent.
The Effect: The charts look good, but the ad has the same unappealing sarcastic tone as the ads people hate most. C+
The Ad: Emergency Committee for Israel, "Time to Act"
The Issues: Iran's nuclear program.
The Message: Obama has been talking about Iran for too long, the ad says. It's time to start bombing. No, the ad doesn't end with the word "bomb" or "nuke" or "destroy," but it does end with a big rocket taking off in a massive fireball. ECI, founded by Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol and run by other prominent Republicans, has been putting ads all over Washington bus stops (as seen at left). (Image via John Brown.)
Who'll See It: The group is making a "significant" purchase of air time in New York and Washington, D.C., BuzzFeed's Zeke Miller reports. It'll air during Sunday political talk shows and weekend sports.
Who It's For: To encourage political people to get even more hawkish on Iran, and to make Obama voters think he's not doing enough to protect Israel.
What Everyone Else Thinks: Thanks, but we've had enough war of late.
The Effect: The ad is almost a parody with it's fiery ending. But it does get your attention. C-