Video of the Day: Obama Attacks Romney's Swiss Bank Account

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A sharp ad against the presumptive Republican nominee seeks to paint him as both foreign and overly friendly to foreigners.

You always know a political ad is going to end on a nasty note when the candidate's voice -- "I'm so-and-so, and I approve this message" -- comes at the very start of the spot. And so it is with President Obama's new attack ad against Mitt Romney.

The ad is striking for two reasons. One, it's a more direct attack than anything before. As Molly Ball pointed out, the president's Bin Laden ad had a dual agenda: On the one hand, it reminded voters of and celebrated the death of the terrorist leader; on the other, it questioned whether his rival would have made the same gutsy call. Not so here. While there's a modicum of material about Obama's clean-energy job initiatives, the focus of the ad is a fairly straightforward jingoistic attack on Romney.

The 30-second spot charges Romney with supporting outsourcing as CEO of Bain, as governor of Massachusetts, and now as a candidate. In case the message about foreignness didn't sink in, it helpfully highlights China and Mexico -- both betes noires for many conservative voters -- as the recipients of these jobs. And in a final coup de grace, it reminds voters of Romney's Swiss bank account -- both a sign of foreignness and an implication that Romney is out of touch with the ordinary Americans whose jobs he has helped to shift overseas. The foreign argument is a close sibling to the Democratic talking point that there's something weird about him.

While these are the big fat slow pitches for the Obama campaign (the Swiss bank account line has been inevitable since Romney released his taxes in January), the ad is carefully targeted at the swing states Iowa, Virginia, and Ohio. In Iowa and Ohio in particular, the ad appeals to voters with anxieties about outsourcing of jobs -- and if it picks up on latent xenophobia, the president's campaign doesn't seem too worried about it.

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David A. Graham

David Graham is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Politics Channel. He previously reported for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

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