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: President Obama looks back to when people were making fun of Mitt Romney, Romney finds a disappointed Obama voter, Democrats call Linda McMahon too rich to care about old people, Richard Mourdock tries to tie his opponent to Obama, and the NRA says somebody's gonna take your guns away.
The Ad: Barack Obama, "Policy"
The Issues: Romney's tour of London and Israel during the Olympics and his first response to the death of our ambassador to Libya.
The Message: Hey guys, remember when everyone was making fun of Romney for putting his foot in his mouth? Let's go back to those days. The ad shows the negative reviews Romney's Olympics tour and Libya press conference got. The gravely narrator says, "If this is how he handles the world now, just imagine what Mitt Romney might do as president."
Who'll See It: TV viewers in Virginia.
Who It's For: There are a lot of people who work in the defense industry in Virginia, where Obama's averaging a lead of 0.3 percentage points over Romney. Romney gave a big foreign policy speech at the Virginia Military Institute Monday.
What Everyone Else Thinks: Romney and Obama actually have pretty similar ideas on foreign policy.
The Effect: Romney looks silly, but it's a standard political ad that blends into all the others. C
The Ad: Mitt Romney, "Melanie"
The Issues: Women.
The Message: The ad features the direct-to-camera testimonial of Melanie McNamara, who says she voted for Obama in 2008 but won't this time. "Why Mitt Romney? Being a woman, you think about your children. You think about their future. What I want to think about is a future that has jobs…"
Who'll See It: TV viewers in swings states.
Who It's For: Women. A big gender gap is critical for Obama, and if Romney can cut into it, he can win. The shrunken gender gap in 2010 helped account for the huge victory Republicans enjoyed in the midterm elections.
What Everyone Else Thinks: The ad cites labor statistics showing "there are over 450,000 more unemployed women" since Obama took office. But the recession has actually been a lot harder on men.
The Effect: McNamara puts a real face on Romney's message of "disappointment" with Obama. B
The Ad: National Rifle Association, "Chipping Away Our Second Amendment Rights"
The Issues: Guns.
The Message: The ad accuses Obama of "chipping away" at gun rights. There are no statistics or headlines you might see in a typical political ad, because there is no evidence this is happening. Instead, the ad says other bad things are happening -- "mountains of debt, threats to our sovereignty" -- and implies gun rights are threatened too. It urges viewers to "defend freedom" by voting Obama out of office.
Who'll See It: TV viewers in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin, the Associated Press reports. The NRA is spending $1.3 million to air the ads, which will be on till November 6.
Who It's For: People who think Obama's trying to take their guns away.
What Everyone Else Thinks: "Obama hasn't pushed gun control measures as president and has signed laws letting people carry concealed weapons in national parks and in checked bags on Amtrak trains," the Associated Press reports. Yes, guns are as big a threat on Amtrak as full-sized shampoo bottles are on airliners.
The Effect: The ad's primary purpose seems to be to remind people that the NRA exists. D
The Ad: Richard Mourdock, "Synchronized"
The Issues: The Indiana Senate candidate points out that opponent Joe Donnelly is a Democrat, just like Obama.
The Message: Donnelly backed raising the debt ceiling and health care. Showing 1950s-ish synchronized swimmers, the ad announces, "Donnelly and Obama perfect for each other, perfectly wrong for Indiana."
Who'll See It: Hoosiers.
Who It's For: Voters who don't like Obama -- he doesn't have a chance of winning the state, which he won four years ago -- but are open to Donnelly. A late September poll showed Donnelly slightly ahead, with 40 percent to Mourdock's 38 percent.
What Everyone Else Thinks: Who is Mourdock synchronized with?
The Effect: It's a little jokey. And why not use synchronized swimmers with scary makeup from the Olympics this summer? But it catches your attention. B-
The Ad: Democratic group Majority PAC, "Sunset"
The Issues: Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon's wealth and position on social security.
The Message: Attacking Romney's wealth worked so well, why not try it on McMahon? "She's worth hundreds of millions," the ad says. "Has five luxury homes. But Linda McMahon wants to sunset social security. Sunset -- that means letting it expire." She's "set for life" while regular old people will be left without their benefits.
Who'll See It: Connecticut TV viewers.
Who It's For: Old people.
What Everyone Else Thinks: Thank you for explaining what "sunset" means.
The Effect: It is not a very subtle ad, and it has a boring mean narrator. It is semi-successful in tying resentment of her pro-wrestling fortune with her political positions. C+