Brighten their holiday. Enrich their everyday.Give The Atlantic

First Look: Romney's "Searched"

You're getting a first look at the most personal, most provocative television ad Mitt Romney has aired so far...

It's called "Searched." It tells a story familiar to readers of Romney biographies. Robert Gay was a partner at Bain Capital; his 14-year-old daughter disappeared in New York City in 1996, and when the investigation stalled after three days, Romney emptied the Boston office, transported everyone to the city, set up a command center, printed 300,000 fliers, and searched for the girl.

The Bain team was credited by police with helping to find her (safe and sound), and in the ad, Robert Gay says: "The man who helped save my daughter was Mitt Romney."

What's this about?

Romney's personal character; a video holiday card to Iowans; the father figure who protects vulnerable young women; a businessman who knows that family is more important than profit; a look into Romney's soul.

It's tempting to see this ad as a direct rebutal to Mike Huckabee's lugubriously Christian efforts, but a Romney aide said the ad was filmed at least two weeks ago. The Gay family agreed earlier in the campaign, the aide said, to tell their story to Romney's videographers.

It's going to be hard not to interpret the ad as a slap of sorts against New York City, and its mayor at the time -- one Rudy Giuliani -- as documentation provided by the campaign makes clear. Romney told the Boston Globe in 1996:

"Now back in school and fully recovered, Melissa and her parents are doing well, Romney said. The partners, however, are still taking stock of their visit to the dark corners of New York, putting up posters and talking to runaways outside seedy nightclubs and peep shows. Romney said he can't escape some of the images he carries with him from his week in the New York underworld. 'It was a shocker,' he said. 'The number of lost souls was astounding.."

Here's the script:

My fourteen year-old daughter had disappeared in New York City for three days. No one could find her.

"My business partner stepped forward to take charge. He closed the company and brought almost all our employees to New York.

"He said, 'I don’t care how long it takes – we’re going to find her.'

"He set up a command center and searched through the night. The man who helped save my daughter was Mitt Romney.

"Mitt's done a lot of things that people say are nearly impossible. But for me, the most important thing he’s ever done is to help save my daughter."

GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY: "I’m Mitt Romney and I approved this message."