Commentary Magazine


Topic: campaign advertising

The Hands That Built Those Businesses

Something seems to have clicked for Mitt Romney in the past few days. There were a few minutes when he was flailing on the tax return issue, but President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comment appears to have reinvigorated Romney. His new web video out this morning which profiles a small business owner in New Hampshire is a prime example:

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Something seems to have clicked for Mitt Romney in the past few days. There were a few minutes when he was flailing on the tax return issue, but President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comment appears to have reinvigorated Romney. His new web video out this morning which profiles a small business owner in New Hampshire is a prime example:

The video is great on its own, but with some tweaks and shortening it could be an absolutely brutal TV ad. Obama’s comments sound even more condescending and offensive when juxtaposed against the daily struggles of a small business owner. His sarcastic line about entrepreneurs thinking their success came from being “just so smart” comes off as particularly snide. Imagine the impact if the Romney campaign decided to run one of these ads in every swing state, profiling small business owners from each one.

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Huffington Slams Obama’s Osama Ad

Via Beltway Confidential: When even Ariana Huffington isn’t buying the premise of Obama’s campaign ad suggesting that Mitt Romney wouldn’t have ordered the Osama bin Laden raid, it’s probably time to re-evaluate that message:

“I agree with the Romney campaign, that using the Osama bin Laden assassination killing the great news that we had a year ago, in order to say basically that Obama did it and Romney may not have done it,” said Huffington. “It is one thing to celebrate the fact that they did such a great job…but to turn it into a campaign ad is one of the most despicable things you can do.”

If the message is so tasteless that it’s even offending Obama’s strident defenders, why did the campaign go ahead with it in the first place? Remember, this wasn’t just one commercial. Vice President Biden also brought up something similar in his foreign policy speech last week when he declared that “bin Laden is dead and GE is alive…If Romney was president, could we have used that same slogan in reverse?”

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Via Beltway Confidential: When even Ariana Huffington isn’t buying the premise of Obama’s campaign ad suggesting that Mitt Romney wouldn’t have ordered the Osama bin Laden raid, it’s probably time to re-evaluate that message:

“I agree with the Romney campaign, that using the Osama bin Laden assassination killing the great news that we had a year ago, in order to say basically that Obama did it and Romney may not have done it,” said Huffington. “It is one thing to celebrate the fact that they did such a great job…but to turn it into a campaign ad is one of the most despicable things you can do.”

If the message is so tasteless that it’s even offending Obama’s strident defenders, why did the campaign go ahead with it in the first place? Remember, this wasn’t just one commercial. Vice President Biden also brought up something similar in his foreign policy speech last week when he declared that “bin Laden is dead and GE is alive…If Romney was president, could we have used that same slogan in reverse?”

The way the Obama campaign has handled the bin Laden killing has been odd since the beginning. Sure, there were a few conservative detractors who tried to downplay Obama’s role, but for the most part the president was praised across the political spectrum for green-lighting the raid. He’s certainly received his fair share of credit.

But for some reason, the Obama campaign has needlessly tried to puff up the already-impressive mission, calling it the most “audacious plan” in “500 years” and overselling the risks of the president’s decision. Now they’re claiming that Romney wouldn’t have made the same call had he been president.

Why? Is Obama concerned that the raid itself isn’t extraordinary enough on its own? If that’s the case, ads like this certainly won’t help. Beyond the conceit contained in the anti-Romney message, the campaign calculation couldn’t be more transparent. The Obama campaign could have released an ad highlighting why the bin Laden raid was so momentous and what it meant for Americans in general and particularly 9/11 family members. Instead, it decided to go for a cheap and unsubstantiated attack on Romney. Huffington is right to call that despicable.

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Obama Plays Up “Achievements” in New Ad

Obama’s critics have said that he can’t run a campaign based on his achievements, and he proved them right today with a new video ad. Entitled “Forward” – which is also the latest in a string of Obama campaign slogans – the ad’s basic message is “things aren’t great, but they could be worse, so let’s stop focusing on the past.” At the end, there’s an unimpressive scrolling list of Obama’s supposed presidential accomplishments:

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Obama’s critics have said that he can’t run a campaign based on his achievements, and he proved them right today with a new video ad. Entitled “Forward” – which is also the latest in a string of Obama campaign slogans – the ad’s basic message is “things aren’t great, but they could be worse, so let’s stop focusing on the past.” At the end, there’s an unimpressive scrolling list of Obama’s supposed presidential accomplishments:

Don’t get me wrong, the video is well done, and will probably be convincing to certain people who badly want to believe their 2008 vote didn’t go to waste. But the list of achievements is comically weak, mixing a sparse number of actual accomplishments (killing Osama bin Laden, ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell) with vague or insignificant ones (“protected reproductive rights,” “fuel efficiency standards doubling” by 2025).

In the ad, Obama boasts that 4.2 million jobs have been saved, despite the 4.4 million jobs lost under President Bush. But he fails to mention that 4.3 million jobs were also lost during his first 13 months in office, and the unemployment rate is higher now than it was when he was inaugurated. Even the tax cuts for 160 million Americans that he mentions in the ad are really short-term payroll tax cut extensions that evade necessary long-term tax reform. And the U.S. oil production that’s at an “8-year high” is due in no part to Obama’s policies, which have been to impede domestic oil production whenever possible.

Some of his supposed accomplishments include a hodgepodge of random, low-impact measures he frantically instituted during the last six months or so (i.e., “incentives to hire unemployed veterans” and “guaranteed coverage for contraception”). The list reads as if the campaign was scraping bottom to dig up anything they could tout as a success. Those who want to believe Obama has had a triumphant first term probably will do so. But others aren’t likely to walk away convinced.

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Would the White House Fall for This?

Conservatives must hope that the White House takes this sort of gibberish about the Massachusetts debacle from Frank Rich seriously:

It was not a referendum on Barack Obama, who in every poll remains one of the most popular politicians in America. It was not a rejection of universal health care, which Massachusetts mandated (with Scott Brown’s State Senate vote) in 2006. It was not a harbinger of a resurgent G.O.P., whose numbers remain in the toilet. Brown had the good sense not to identify himself as a Republican in either his campaign advertising or his victory speech.

Everything is fine, perfectly fine. According to Rich, the real issue is that Obama was not angry enough or  wasn’t everywhere enough. Or Left-leaning enough. You can almost sense Republican candidates and operatives holding their collective breath, smilingly nervously and whispering to each other, “They couldn’t be that obtuse, could they?”

As if the Democrats didn’t have enough problems, Rich and many other of his ilk are counseling Obama to go hard Left and shed any facade of bipartisanship. This certainly will test just how low the Democrats’ standing with independent voters can go. If Massachusetts proved anything, it is that the course that Rich counsels — gin up the base — is a losing proposition. Should the White House and Democratic congressional candidates follow that advice, they will cede the entire Center of the political spectrum to the Republicans, who will gladly scoop up those voters, forge a coalition with enthusiastic conservatives, and roll to victory in race after race. That is precisely what happened in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

It remains to be seen whether Obama is going to follow Rich’s advice, and more important, whether anyone on the ballot in 2010 will be dim enough to do so as well. Republicans can dream that Democrats will plunge over the political cliff, but they shouldn’t count on it. Unlike New York Times columnists, members of Congress get out now and then, read local press, and pay attention to polls. Their future depends on it. And when they do, they might realize that the problem is not too little leftism, but too much, and not too little political demagoguery, but too much.

Conservatives must hope that the White House takes this sort of gibberish about the Massachusetts debacle from Frank Rich seriously:

It was not a referendum on Barack Obama, who in every poll remains one of the most popular politicians in America. It was not a rejection of universal health care, which Massachusetts mandated (with Scott Brown’s State Senate vote) in 2006. It was not a harbinger of a resurgent G.O.P., whose numbers remain in the toilet. Brown had the good sense not to identify himself as a Republican in either his campaign advertising or his victory speech.

Everything is fine, perfectly fine. According to Rich, the real issue is that Obama was not angry enough or  wasn’t everywhere enough. Or Left-leaning enough. You can almost sense Republican candidates and operatives holding their collective breath, smilingly nervously and whispering to each other, “They couldn’t be that obtuse, could they?”

As if the Democrats didn’t have enough problems, Rich and many other of his ilk are counseling Obama to go hard Left and shed any facade of bipartisanship. This certainly will test just how low the Democrats’ standing with independent voters can go. If Massachusetts proved anything, it is that the course that Rich counsels — gin up the base — is a losing proposition. Should the White House and Democratic congressional candidates follow that advice, they will cede the entire Center of the political spectrum to the Republicans, who will gladly scoop up those voters, forge a coalition with enthusiastic conservatives, and roll to victory in race after race. That is precisely what happened in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

It remains to be seen whether Obama is going to follow Rich’s advice, and more important, whether anyone on the ballot in 2010 will be dim enough to do so as well. Republicans can dream that Democrats will plunge over the political cliff, but they shouldn’t count on it. Unlike New York Times columnists, members of Congress get out now and then, read local press, and pay attention to polls. Their future depends on it. And when they do, they might realize that the problem is not too little leftism, but too much, and not too little political demagoguery, but too much.

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