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: Rapid response ads suffer on slow news days, President Obama defends his Medicare cuts, and an Ohio senate candidate goes on spring break.

The Ad: Republican National Committee, "Serious Questions"

The Issues: President Obama hasn't held a press conference in eight weeks.

The Message: This ad's concept was clearly lifted from a BuzzFeed post by Zeke Miller titled "President Obama Only Answers Ridiculous Questions." Miller noted Obama's interview with a New Mexico radio show was filled with questions like "If you had a super power, what would it be?" and illustrated the questions with funny photos. The RNC's ad just pastes together the audio of those questions, while the text on screen says "THIS IS NOT A PARODY."

Who'll See It: It's a Web video, so mostly those who seek it out.

Who It's For: Reporters, so they'll harass Obama for a press conference.

What Everyone Else Thinks: When asked about superpowers, Obama said "the whole flying thing is pretty good," which is obviously the best superpower.

The Effect: If the RNC is going to steal, they should steal with some pizazz. This is dull. C-


The Ad: Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, "Gone Wild"

The Issues: Josh Mandel's fundraising and youth.

The Message: The ad says Mandel raised money from payday lenders in the Bahamas. Sure, payday lenders seem sketchy, but the real theme of the ad is that Mandel is an immature kid you can't trust in office. Mandel, a 34-year-old veteran, looks like a little kid. The ad plays on that with a very MTV Spring Break theme.

Who'll See It: TV viewers in Ohio.

Who It's For: Old folks who don't like Democrats these days but maybe don't like the youth even more.

What Everyone Else Thinks: Um, this guy was in a war. Surely he's mature enough for Washington.

The Effect: The ad has your typical sneering narrator and numbers flashing across the screen, but at least the dancing, beach scenes, and tropical music get your attention. B


The Ad: Barack Obama, "Facts"

The Issues: Medicare.

The Message: The campaigns are competing to portray each other as cruel and careless old-person-haters. The Romney campaign has accused Obama of cutting Medicare by $716 billion, even though Paul Ryan's plan would keep those cuts. This ad says Obama is just cutting fraud and abuse, while the AARP says Ryan's plan could "undermine… Medicare and could lead to higher costs for seniors." Note: The ad completely embraces the term "Obamacare."

Who'll See It: The TV ad will air in eight swing states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.

Who It's For: Old people, especially those who've seen Romney's ad on Medicare. 

What Everyone Else Thinks: AARP issued a statement saying it had nothing to do with Obama's ad, saying, "the candidates owe voters straight talk — not just 30-second ads — about what their plans will mean for today’s seniors and future retirees," Politico notes.

The Effect: The ad is a standard boring campaign ad, though the nonconsensual AARP quote makes it seem more authoritative. The ad also urges viewers to "get the facts" at a campaign site about Medicare. Come on guys, we've all had to walk grandpa through a Google search. This url is not getting typed in to many old folks' computers. C+


The Ad: Priorities USA Action, "Small-Minded"

The Issues: Mitt Romney's taxes.

The Message: Mitt Romney said questions about his taxes are "small-minded" in a press conference Thursday, and said he'd never paid less than a 13 percent tax rate in the last 10 years. Under Ryan's plan, Romney would pay less than 1 percent tax rate, the ad says, citing an Atlantic story.

Who'll See It: The ad is targeted to browsers in these swing states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Democratic groups like this have struggled to raise as much money as Republican groups.

Who It's For: People who don't like how Obama's handled the economy but aren't sure how they feel about Romney. The goal is to make people dislike Romney. 

What Everyone Else Thinks: What else is there to learn from Romney's taxes? We know he's crazy rich.

The Effect: The ad was put together quickly, and it shows. The cartoon heart surrounding Ryan and Romney plays well on the whole bromance theme that followed Romney's selection of Ryan. C