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: Usually Democrats are the ones reminiscing about the 1990s, but now it's Mitt Romney getting nostalgic for the Clinton years. Meanwhile, a pro-President Obama Super PAC beats up Romney with a sad story about a woman's cancer.
The Ad: Mitt Romney, "Right Choice"
The Issues: Welfare, a word the ad says six times.
The Message: Obama "quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform" on July 12, the ad charges. "Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work, and wouldn't have to train for a job, they'd just send you your welfare check." The ad is referring to a Department of Health and Human Services directive that will allow states to ask for waivers on the work requirement for welfare to try out alternatives, Reuters reports. Work requirements are part of the 1996 welfare reform law.
Who'll See It: Romney is limited in how much money he can spend before he's officially the nominee after the Republican convention. This ad is being done with the Republican National Committee.
Who It's For: People who feel like they're working hard but not getting ahead, and someone else out there is getting something for not working at all.
What Everyone Else Thinks: Obama's campaign argues it gave states more flexibility, because welfare caseworkers had to spend more time on paperwork than on helping people find work. In a letter co-signed with other governors, Romney requested more flexibility in 2005.
The Effect: It's a standard political ad with a concerned male narrator and a bunch of text on the screen. But the message resonates. Bashing "welfare queens" worked well for Ronald Reagan, but that had racial undertones that wouldn't work today. The man shown working as the ad talks about work requirements is a white dude, and that can't be an accident. B+
The Ad: Priorities USA, "Understands"
The Issues: Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital.
The Message: Romney cares more about making money than people's lives. Joe Soptic, who worked at Kansas City's GST Steel plant until it was closed following its takeover by Bain, tells the story of losing his job, his health insurance, and his wife. Soptic says his wife started getting sick, but she didn't say anything because they no longer had insurance. Finally, when she went to the hospital, she had pneumonia -- and Stage IV cancer. She died in 22 days, Soptic says, before concluding, "I do not think that Mitt Romney realizes what he's done to anyone. Furthermore, I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned."
Who'll See It: It's part of a $20 million TV and online ad buy, and will air in Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Who It's For: People who are unhappy with Obama's performance on the economy and are considering Romney. The point is to disqualify Romney as a potential president -- to say he just doesn't understand or care about regular people.
What Everyone Else Thinks: Romney, obviously, did not give this man's wife cancer. Obama is trying to suppress working-class white voter turnout by making them too bummed out to vote, BuzzFeed's John Ellis argues. Obama hopes those Republican-leaning voters "sit things out in disgust," The New York Times' Ross Douthat writes.
The Effect: The ad doesn't argue that Romney gave this woman cancer, it says Romney didn't care if she got cancer. That may be why Mediaite's Tommy Christopher called it "brutal." It mixes the argument that Romney's career hasn't been about creating jobs with cancer. A-