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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: President Obama s campaign says Mitt Romney took the president's words out of context, Romney says Obama hates business, a Democratic Super PAC says Romney was mean to gay people, and a red-state Democrat starts airing ads against all three of her potential opponents before the primary is even over.

The Ad: Barack Obama, "Mitt Romney: Saying Anything to Get Elected"

The Issues: Romney has been attacking Obama for saying last week, "If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that." Alone, that sentence makes it sound like Obama's saying business owners didn't build their businesses. A new ad from Romney is based on that meaning. But in context, it's clear he means the infrastructure the businesses needed to run, like roads and schools. 

The Message: "Romney will say anything to get elected," the ad says. It shows Romney attacking Obama for saying things that Romney's said himself. Obama says a successful person had a "school teacher" somewhere, then Romney says "we value school teachers." Etc.

Who'll See It: It's a web video, so only those who seek it out: fans and reporters.

Who It's For: Reporters. Though conservatives have been talking about the quote all week, it's only started getting noticed at major news sites in the last day or two. It's meant to shape how reporters cover the quote and prevent "Is Obama anti-business?" stories.

What Everyone Else Thinks: Obama's former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, now the mayor of Chicago, said Romney should "stop whining" about negative ads. But who's whining now?

The Effect: It's a fairly skillful splicing of Romney's comments with Obama's. It does draw attention to Romney's comments, though. B+

The Ad: Mitt Romney, "These Hands" 

The Issues: Obama's comment about business.

The Message: This is the ad Obama's campaign is responding to, which we wrote about earlier. A New Hampshire business owner says he's pretty sure he built his business, and no one else did. "We need someone who believes achievement should be rewarded, not punished," the man says. "We need someone who believes in America."

Who'll See It: It's a web video, so only those who seek it out: fans and reporters.

Who It's For: As we mentioned earlier, conservative bloggers love it. And they would really like to see it on air. But federal campaign finance law bars Romney from spending the money he raised for the general election until after the Republican National Convention, and after spending a lot of money during the primary season Romney has limited funds to do things like air TV ads.

What Everyone Else Thinks: The ad cuts up Obama's speech in a questionable way. It features audio of Obama saying:

 "You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen."

That omits a lot. As Andrew Sullivan noted earlier, here's the full text of Obama's speech, with the stuff cut put in italics:


There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back.  They know they didn’t -- look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The Effect: Obama looks like a huge jerk. The ad has an odd trick of using generic uplifting light rock music to score a negative ad, so it doesn't seem quite so negative. B+

The Ad: American Bridge 21st Century and Courage Campaign Super PAC, "Mitt Gets Worse: Julie Goodridge"

The Issues: Romney's opposition to gay marriage.

The Message: Goodridge and her partner were part of the Massachusetts state supreme court case that brought gay marriage to Massachusetts while Romney was governor. She recounts meeting Romney and finding that "he didn't know who we were," despite massive media attention both statewide and nationally. She recalls Romney being dismissive and uninterested in her life or why she would want the rights that come with marriage.

Who'll See It: It's a web video that's part of a whole site that's a slightly odd play on the "It Gets Better" series about anti-gay bullying.

Who It's For: The intent seems to be to encourage Obama supporters to be active in the campaign.

What Everyone Else Thinks: A better emoting politician doesn't guarantee better results. Take Bill Clinton, for example. He signed the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Effect: Goodridge's story is compelling, but it doesn't seem like the kind of thing meant to win anyone over. C+

The Ad: Claire McCaskill, "Three of a kind, one and the same: Todd Akin"

The Issues: The senator is facing one of the toughest reelection races in the country. She's taken the unusual step of running ads in the Republican Senate primary against all three of her potential opponents. The red-state Democrat has already said she's not going to the Democratic National Convention.

The Message: This ad, about Rep. Todd Akin, says he's too conservative for Missouri. The ad attacking Sarah Palin-backed Sarah Steelman accuses her of unethical and secretive behavior. The John Brunner ad says he's unreliable.

Who'll See It: McCaskill's campaign has bought $20,000 air time on Fox News in Missouri, Politico reports, and will eventually buy more.

Who It's For: It's an attempt to shape how Republicans view their candidates -- as in, to make them less happy with them.

What Everyone Else Thinks: Why is a Democrat advertising in a Republican primary?

The Effect: It's a fairly standard attack ad, with a sneering male narrator. The highlight is the ad quoting Akin saying Obama is a "menace to society." C

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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