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 has launched two ads—a nice happy one about his plans for the future, and a mean one playing Mitt Romney's "47 percent" audio—while Romney attacks Obama on a core Ohio issue.
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The Ad: Barack Obama, "My Job"
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The Issues: Romney's "47 percent" video.
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The Message: This is the second Obama ad in which the entire audio is Romney talking. The first portrayed Romney as a silly rich man by playing audio of him singing "America the Beautiful" over newspaper headlines about his offshore accounts and stock photos of exotic locales. This one makes him seem a little worse than silly. While Romney talks about the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay federal income tax—saying they think of themselves as victims and he'll never convince them to take personal responsibility—the visuals are photos of elderly veterans or people hard at work at what you're supposed to think are low-paying jobs. Note how in the still above, the mom has one work glove on, like she just took a break from working on the farm to be insulted by Romney.
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Who'll See It: The ad is airing on TV in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Virginia.
Who It's For: Romney's personal approval ratings are low, and Obama wants to push them lower. That way even the majority who are disappointed with his handling on the economy won't think Romney's a palatable alternative.
What Everyone Else Thinks: Conservatives say Romney was talking about his electoral strategy for getting into the White House, not what he'd do once he got there. Romney's campaign released an ad Wednesday in which he argues both he and Obama care about poor folks, but Romney's policies will help them more.
The Effect: Romney does not look good. A
The Ad: Jewish Council for Education and Research, "Wake the F*ck Up!"
The Issues: Democratic voters enthusiasm.
The Message: Samuel L. Jackson says f-words in a rhyming ad modeled after the popular book, Go the F*ck to Sleep. College students, women, parents, and grandparents are visited and warned what will happen if Romney gets elected. In one scene, grandparents are making out in bed when their granddaughter calls out, asking to talk. "Not now sweetie, can't it wait?" Jackson pops up next to them in bed in a beret: "Hell no it can't wait! Your lives wil be affected. Romney and Ryan will gut Medicare if they're elected. Ask the fact-checkers -- those two are fact-duckers." Grandma asks, "What do you want us to do?" Jackson yells, "Say, 'Hell no, motherfuckers!'"
Who'll See It: The Internet.
Who It's For: The youth, liberals, Jackson fans, people who don't mind seeing a little kid say an f-word.
What Everyone Else Thinks: This is in poor taste.
The Effect: Not all parts are funny, but it's hard to deny Jackson's charm when he's cussing righteously. Unless you hate cussing. A-
The Ad: Mitt Romney, "Bankrupt."
The Issues: Coal, and who really supports it.
The Message: Obama is attacking Romney because Romney supports coal. See what Romney will go through for you guys? "Obama wages war on coal while we lose jobs to China, which is using more coal every day… Mr. President, let us keep our jobs."
Who'll See It: TV viewers in Ohio and Virginia.
Who It's For: Working-class whites in the coal-mining areas. Obama's current lead in Ohio is remarkable, The New Republic's Alec MacGillis says, since "Ohio was supposed to be his Achilles heel." The state's many working-class white voters are supposed to be less friendly to him, and "Part of the state lies in Appalachian coal country, where Obama is roundly blamed for the mining decline." Romney wants to remind voters of those feelings.
What Everyone Else Thinks: The "'war on coal' is coming less from the Obama administration than from natural gas, say some experts," the Christian Science Monitor reports. "Coal-fired power plants and coal mines are being shuttered at an unprecedented pace mainly because the price of natural gas has dropped so far that it has made coal power uncompetitive."
The Effect: The ad ties a specific local problem to the biggest issues of the race, the economy and jobs. But it's mostly a boring narrator in a standard ad. B-
The Ad: Barack Obama, "Table"
The Issues: Whether the nation's on the right track.
The Message: The ad is two minutes long and shows Obama speaking to the camera about what he'd say to "you" if he were at his kitchen table. Obama lays out four things he'd do to make the country stronger -- 1) create new manufacturing jobs and give tax breaks to companies that keep jobs in America, 2) cut oil imports in half for energy independence, 3) 100,000 new math and science teachers and job retraining, and 4) "ask the wealthy to pay a little more" and use the savings from ending the war in Afghanistan for "a little nation-building right here at home." Obama says, "It's time for a new economic patriotism, rooted in the belief that growing our economy depends on a strong, thriving middle class."
Who'll See It: TV viewers in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Virginia.
Who It's For: Though Obama's approval rating has climbed recently, most Americans still think the country's on the wrong track. And both Romney and Obama have been criticized for not offering specific policy proposals, though Romney's gotten more of the criticism.
What Everyone Else Thinks: How is Obama going to get those tax increases past a Republican-controlled House of Representatives?
The Effect: The ad is positive and seems optimistic with all the sunshine-y stock footage and uplifting soft rock. Obama speaks into the camera, which is a nice change from anonymous faceless narrators. What is most spectacular about the ad, though, is how long it is. B