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 in Ad Watch: Mitt Romney fantasizes about President Romney, President Obama loves higher-ed because he loved his mom, Karl Rove's Super PAC gets into the Nebraska Senate race, and Democrats gloat over the negative coverage of Romney's business career.
The Ad: Mitt Romney, "Day One"
The Issues: What a Romney administration would look like.
The Message: This ad appeals to those of us (maybe all of us) who want instant gratification. It lists what Romney will do on his first day in office, like approve the Keystone XL pipeline, cut taxes, start what would be a long and torturous process to repeal Obamacare. It's the Republican's first general election ad.
Who'll See It: TV watchers in Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia. The campaign bought at least $1.2 million worth of airtime. It will run through next Tuesday, Politico's James Hohmann says. The campaign has also released a Spanish version.
Who It's For: People who are curious about Romney but don't know much about him.
What Everyone Else Thinks: As the Obama administration has proved, it's not about the first day, but the whole four years.
The Effect: The ad is simple -- 34 words, as Bloomberg notes -- and pleasant. Republicans have been encouraging Romney to present a more positive message about what he would do, instead of just reacting Obama. This ad does that, sort of. Two of the three things it says a President Romney would do are explained in terms of what Obama's not doing. But it still presents them in terms of positive action. A-
The Ad: Barack Obama, "Higher Education"
The Issues: Obama wants to make college more affordable for the middle class. Also: how much Obama loved his mom.
The Message: Obama has done several things to make college more affordable -- more federal grants, raised the college tax credit, capped student loan payments. The ad implies Obama was inspired to do this because a good education helped him go from being the son of a single mom to president.
Who'll See It: Floridian TV viewers, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The governor recently created a higher education task force to study whether the state universities are ready for a big increase in awarded four-year degrees.
Who It's For: People who look at their kid's tuition bill -- or their own student loan bill -- and gasp, then look for a bed to crawl under and cry.
What Everyone Else Thinks: Education funding is not a major priority in this election.
The Effect: The ad layers a case for Obama's character under its message about education policy, which makes it a little more interesting than usual. But while it shows concrete things Obama has done, it doesn't hold your attention. B-
The Ad: Crossroads GPS, "'Dusturbing' NE"
The Issues: Whether Bob Kerrey is too New York for Nebraska, the state he's running to represent in the Senate.
The Message: Kerrey, who was a governor and senator from Nebraska before he quit politics and ran the New School in New York for a decade, supported the Wall Street bailouts. He sat on the board of a company that tried unsuccessfully to get bailout money, the ad says. Kerrey doesn't share "Nebraska values."
Who'll See It: Broadcast and cable TV viewers in Denver, Lincoln, North Platte, Omaha, Scottsbluff, and Sioux City, Hohmann reports.
Who It's For: People with fond but distant memories of Kerrey, and who might be open to the surprise winner of the Republican primary Tuesday, Deb Fischer.
What Everyone Else Thinks: Um, Kerrey wasn't in office when the bailout was passed.
The Effect: It's a standard modern political ad -- the kind with the grating, slightly sarcastic narrator. (I don't understand. Does that tone of voice test well in focus groups? It's in the top 20, at least, of annoying sounds -- behind little dogs yapping but ahead of vacuums.) The "he's not from here" argument can be very powerful, but it's a stretch to tie Kerrey to the Wall Street bailout. C
The Ad: Democratic National Committee, "The Bane of Romney's Existence"
The Issues: It's not about Romney's business experience, but the coverage of the ads about Romney's business experience. It's meta.
The Message: Romney got lots of negative coverage of Romney's business career at Bain Capital after the Obama campaign and a pro-Obama Super PAC aired ads featuring a company that had been taken over by Bain and went bankrupt. Don't you want to jump on this bandwagon? Don't you want to argue that Bain is a net negative for Romney's campaign?
Who'll See It: It's a web video, so the only people who'll watch this are political reporters and the most extreme political nerds.
Who It's For: Reporters. The ad directs viewers to go to a campaign microsite, RomneyEconomics.com, so they can learn more, but come on.
What Everyone Else Thinks: There goes the liberal media again.
The Effect: It's hard to imagine anyone watching this ad will think, oh yeah, I should write a story about how horrible Romney's business record is. It seems more likely to stimulate contrarian impulses. P.S. Shouldn't the title be "The Bain of Romney's Existence"? C-