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: The candidates address their weaknesses. Mitt Romney shows he can get specific and cares about women and babies, President Obama argues we are better off than four years ago, Republicans try to deal with a popular Democrat in a red state, and the financier of an inflammatory anti-Obama ad tries to play it a little nicer.
The Ad: Mitt Romney, "Dear Daughter"
The Issues: What Obama doesn't do for women, baby women included.
The Message: A cute little baby girl is born into Obama's America, and is too innocent to know a massive pile of debt is coming to crush her tiny little baby shoulders. "Dear Daughter, Welcome to America. Your share of Obama's debt is over $50,000." Poverty and unemployment among women is up, the ad says. "That's what Obama's policies have done for women."
Who'll See It: Presumably swing states.
Who It's For: The ladies, of course. A Fox News poll puts Obama ahead 53 percent to Romney's 39 percent among women. A Latino Decisions survey finds Obama with a 53 percentage point advantage among Latino women.
What Everyone Else Thinks: A Democratic super PAC says Romney gave a woman cancer, so Romney says Obama hates babies.
The Effect: It's ridiculous and over the top. but it's also unique and memorable. It's nice to see an attack ad that isn't just numbers over a black-and-white photo of an opponent's face. A-
The Ad: Mitt Romney, "The Romney Plan"
The Issues: What Romney would do for the middle class.
The Message: Romney will help the middle class by "cracking down on cheaters like China" and "open up new markets." Romney says, looking just off camera, that he'll cut spending, reduce the deficit, balance the budget, and help small businesses.
Who'll See It: The ads will air on TV in swing states, The Washington Post says, though it doesn't say which ones.
Who It's For: "Polling shows that voters recognize that Gov. Romney has a plan, but they want more details," a Romney official told CNN's Peter Hamby. Conservatives have been demanding more details from Romney, too. And notice how when Romney talks about helping small businesses, all of the small business owners are women? Romney is weaker among women voters than among men.
What Everyone Else Thinks: Romney's running mate Paul Ryan told Fox News in August they haven't "run the numbers" on Romney's budget plan, but his own plan, passed by the House, doesn't balance the budget until the 2030s.
The Effect: It's positive, and it features Romney in an interview-type setting, instead of using a clip from a speech, which is what the campaign usually does. But it's not very memorable. C+
The Ad: Barack Obama, "The Question"
The Issues: Are you better off than you were four years ago?
The Message: The ad answers in the affirmative, showing clips of how freaked out everyone was during the financial crisis, with 4.4 million jobs lost. "We're not there yet. But the real question is: Whose plan is better for you?" the ad says. Romney just wants to cut taxes for rich people, it says, while Obama wants millionares to pay a little more (photos of ridiculous mansions pan across the screen), and to "invest in a strong middle class."
Who'll See It: The ad will air in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Virginia.
Who It's For: The ad takes a minute, instead of the usual 30 seconds, to make the case that Obama has done a lot to fix the economy. Romney has been beating Obama on the economy for most of the year, but a recent New York Times/CBS News poll finds Obama cutting into that lead, winning 47 percent to Romney's 46 percent on that issue. That's pretty surprising since a majority of voters still disapprove of Obama's handing of the economy.
What Everyone Else Thinks: There's a reason it takes a whole minute -- plus a clip of Bill Clinton -- to make the case for Obama's handling of the economy.
The Effect: The ad might catch voters' attention for addressing one of Romney's top talking points, and with clips of Clinton. But other than that, it's the standard statistics-over-stock-footage political ad. B-
The Ad: National Republican Senatorial Committee, "Amazing"
The Issues: North Dakota Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp is nice enough, but the Democrat once said something nice about Obama.
The Message: "I like Heidi, I just don't like her supporting president Obama," a North Dakota small business owner says. "A vote for Heidi means I like where Obama's taking the economy. I don't," another voter says. The ad shows grainy footage of Heitkamp saying Obama's presidency would be "amazing" and repeats the word "amazing" over and over.
Who'll See It: North Dakotans.
Who It's For: This seat was supposed to be an easy win for Republicans, but Heitkamp has run a stronger campaign than expected. Her opponent, Rep. Rick Berg, has run several ads against her that appeared to backfire. So Republicans are trying to tie the more popular Heitkamp to the much less popular Obama.
What Everyone Else Thinks: Obama's not running for Senate in North Dakota.
The Effect: The ad shows regular people, and though it's slightly absurd to have them all repeat the word "amazing," it could make voters question Heitkamp's instincts. C+
The Ad: Ending Spending Action Fund, "Why I Changed My Vote: Lynne B."
The Issues: Some people who voted for Obama in 2008 aren't going to this time.
The Message: Lynn B. says she was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton and voted for Obama four years ago. But "he's taking our country in totally the wrong direction. If we want a better future for America, we need to vote for Mitt Romney."
Who'll See It: The super PAC airing the ad is funded by Joe Ricketts, who's pledged to spend $10 million getting Romney elected.
Who It's For: Ricketts' financed the ad storyboard depicting Obama as a "metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln," and influenced by he Rev. Jeremiah Wright. After the proposed ad was leaked to The New York Times in May, outrage ensued, and Ricketts eventually disavowed the ad. He's going with the kinder, gentler anti-Obama approach that other Republican super PACs have found more effective.
What Everyone Else Thinks: Lynn doesn't say why she fell out of love with Obama.
The Effect: Testimonials from regular people aren't nearly as grating as the typical sarcastic voiceovers, but this one doesn't offer much specifics for why Obama's so bad. It's more like a support group for Obama voters who are considering switching their vote. B-