Why are the presidential candidates spending so much time raising so much money? To buy TV ads. In Ad Watch, we review the results of their heroic efforts as they come out. Today: Birthers get their very own TV ad, while a pro-President Obama group takes an Olympic shot at Mitt Romney. Plus: Allen West shows his caring side, and Elizabeth Warren says she's fighting for consumers.
The Ad: Conservative Majority Fund, "Shady Past"
The Issues: Birtherism. The ad pushes the very, very, very discredited claim that Obama's not a citizen. Obama might not be eligible to be president of the United States because we don't know anything about his past, the ad says. "Unless they can tell us who he is, the Democrats need to put up another candidate."
The Message: First the ad lists all kinds of other baby Obama documents we haven't seen -- his college transcripts, his selective service record, etc, before pulling out the big guns: "No one -- I mean no one -- has see Obama's actual birth certificate." Then red question marks fly toward Obama's birth certificate.
Who'll See It: According to top birther site World Net Daily, the ad has run on Fox News. Birthers on message boards say they saw the ad Tuesday afternoon. Birthers at Free Republic complained the ad says Obama has a Massachusetts social security number when birther lore holds that it's a Connecticut number.
Who It's For: The ad directs viewers to call a phone number to sign a petition to get Obama off the Democratic ballot. But it's really just to rile up conservatives.
The Effect: This is hard to say. The ad is cheap and features the fast-talking narrator you usually find in one of those "male enhancement" supplement ads. But then, somebody out there buys those pills. Perhaps that is the target audience. If the goal is to excite birthers, we give it a B+. If it's to have any ties to reality, then of course, the grade is F.
The Ad: Priorities USA Action, "Romney's Gold"
The Issues: Romney's offshore accounts and the outsourcing done by companies Bain invested in.
The Message: Using footage from the opening ceremony of the 2002 Olympics, which Romney ran, the ad implies Romney loves saving money in foreign places more than he loves America. As new countries enter the stadium, the sarcastic sports announcer says Romney sent jobs to China or has money in the Caymans.
Who'll See It: It's a Web video.
Who It's For: Supporters who can post it on their Facebook walls.
What Everyone Else Thinks: How can these horrible sports haters tarnish the Olympics by using images of the athletes to make fun of Romney?!
The Effect: The ad is unique and cleverly done. However!!! Any ad that in any way makes fun of the Olympics is over the line and completely unacceptable. F
The Ad: Allen West, "Body Armor"
The Issues: The Florida congressman's character. The ad says he saved a soldier's life.
The Message: Retired Army Sgt. Robert Delgado explains that while he was serving in Iraq under West, West gave him his body armor because Delgado was a new father and hadn't yet seen his kid. Later Delgado was shot, and the armor saved him. "Lt. Col. Allen West saved my life. It was just the greatest feeling in the world to hold my son for the first time," he says.
Who'll See It: TV viewers in Florida.
Who It's For: Women. West is known for saying controversial things, and this is supposed to show his nicer side.
What Everyone Else Thinks: West was forced to retire from the Army after firing a gun next to a detainee's head. Also: why didn't Delgado have body armor? All soldiers going to Iraq are issued body armor.
The Effect: It's a moving story that humanizes the congressman. And it reminds viewers that even though this election is focused on the economy, we're still in a war. A
The Ad: Lyndon Johnson, "KKK for Goldwater"
The Issues: Barry Goldwater was supported by the KKK in the 1964 presidential campaign.
The Message: The narrator says with a mocking accent, "'We represent the majority of people in Alabama who hate niggerism, Catholicism, Judaism, and all the -isms of the whole world.' So say Robert Creel of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. He also said, 'I like Barry Goldwater. He needs our help.'"
Who'll See It: No one, obviously.
Who It's For: If you think this year's election ads are harshly negative, it helps to sift through the archives, as Greg Mitchell points out.
What Everyone Else Thinks: Goldwater rejected the Klan's endorsement. Johnson's campaign didn't care, but they didn't run the ad because they feared a backlash.
The Effect: It's shocking, of course, with the drumbeats and all.
The Ad: Elizabeth Warren, "Consumer Financial Protection Bureau"
The Issues: The Massachusetts Senate candidate fights for the little guy.
The Message: Warren helped create the CFPB, which is now fining Capital One for excessive fees. "Protecting consumers is what Elizabeth Warren had in mind when she came up with the idea for a new agency to hold the big banks and credit card companies accountable," a narrator says. The Warren says, "We need a cop on the beat to make sure no one steals your purse on Main Street and no one steals your pension on Wall Street."
Who'll See It: Radio listeners in Massachusetts.
Who It's For: Warren has been attacked for being listed as a Native American on college registries, something conservatives have used to depict her as an undeserving Affirmative Action case. This is supposed to show Warren focused on helping regular people, not herself.
What Everyone Else Thinks: The CFPB means more regulations.
The Effect: It does a good job of crediting Warren with a tangible accomplishment. But even on the radio, she's not very charismatic. B