Obama's Bain Ad Is All About the White Guys

Elspeth Reeve
The Atlantic Wire
Obama's Bain Ad Is All About the White Guys

The general election has begun! And so has the onslaught of campaign ads. Which ones succeed? Which fail? In Ad Watch, we review them as they come out. Today: President Obama goes after Mitt Romney's business career, a conservative group makes an Occupy Wall Street argument, and Republicans try to reach young folks.

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The Ad: Barack Obama, "Steel"

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The Issues: Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital.

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The Message: Men who worked for GST Steel in Kansas City, Missouri, talk about what happened when Bain Capital took over their company while Romney was in charge. The men accuse Bain of sucking as much money as possible from the company and then filing for bankruptcy, seeking the "elimination of pension plan, the termination of employee health insurance and life insurance." The workers literally use the words "vampire" and "job destroyer." The 99 percent message is blunt: "These guys are rich. They'll have more money than they'll ever spend. yet they didn't have the money to take care of the very people who made the money for them." The point isn't to sell Obama but to disqualify Romney. The url for the ad's companion website, which has more details about the plant, runs at the bottom of the ad the whole time.

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Who'll See It: The two-minute version will air in Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia starting Monday.

Who It's For: It's notable that all the speakers are men -- one even conspicuously wears one of those classic black-and-yellow veteran hats (this one is for the Navy) -- and almost all white. Just as Romney has a problem with women voters, Obama has a problem with men voters, who were hit hardest by the recession. An ad released last week, about an Ohio autoworker, also appealed to working-class white dudes.

What Everyone Else Thinks: Creative destruction is painful but necessary in a robust economy.

The Effect: Political ads much more palatable when they feature real people talking instead of voiceovers. And because it's extra long, the men have more time to make their case. The ad could have used clips of the similar attacks Romney's opponents in the Republican presidential primary made against him -- Rick Perry calling Romney a "vulture capitalist," for example -- but it didn't, keeping the focus on real humans. Politico calls it "brutal," ABC News calls it "devastating." A


The Ad: American Future Fund (It's not clear what the ad's title is).

The Issues: Obama attacks Wall Street, but he has significant ties to Wall Street.

The Message: Obama voted for the Wall Street bailout, hired many people from the financial services industry to work in the administration, and takes lots of Wall Street money, even if he says he doesn't like "Wall Street fat cats." It's a very Occupy Wall Street message, which is funny, given the source. AFF's website says it "was formed to provide Americans with a conservative and free market viewpoint… Conservative and free market principles will be under direct attack in America. In light of that, it is imperative there be a voice for conservative principles that sustains free market ideals…" That sure doesn't sound like your typical pitchfork wielding populists.

Who'll See It: The ad will air in eight states over five days this week at a cost of $3.4 million, Politico's James Hohmann reports. The states are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia.

Who It's For: People who hate Wall Street (which is everyone except people who work there.)

What Everyone Else Thinks: The revolving door between Wall Street and Washington is a persistent problem but not one unique to the Obama White House.

The Effect: Obama looks like a hypocrite. It's a clever use of a left-wing argument to advance a right-wing cause. A-


The Ad: Crossroads Generation, "Join the Movement"

The Issues: It's hard for young people to get a job right now.

The Message: Oh sure Obama was cool your freshman year of college, but now that you're graduating have have no jobs and lots of debt, he doesn't seem so cool anymore.

Who'll See It: The ad is part of a social media ad campaign launched by the super PAC in eight states, including Ohio and Virginia, the Associated Press' Jack Gillim reports. The super PAC was created with $750,000 in money from lots of groups, like College Republicans, but the name is a clear nod to another backer, Karl Rove's American Crossroads.

Who It's For: The youth.

What Everyone Else Thinks: The youth never stop whining. Talk to us when you've experienced something like those steelworkers, kid.

The Effect: There is no college senior who hasn't thought the exact same thing expressed by one young woman in the ad -- maybe paying all this money for college was pointless. Translating that into a vote for Romney seems like a tougher task. But the ad is interesting and not annoying. B