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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 and Democrats continue attacking Mitt Romney on his taxes and his fancy horse, while Romney and Republicans attack Obama on wasted stimulus money.

The Ad: Barack Obama, "Mitt Romney: Chairman, CEO, and Sole Shareholder—But Not Responsible?"

The Issues: Romney says he retired from Bain Capital in 1999, even though his name appears on Securities and Exchange Commission filings for three more years.

The Message: The ad gets regular people (the "man on the street") to read Romney's explanation from Friday on why his name stayed on SEC filings but he had no managerial input. The regular people selected by the campaign do not think it makes sense. "That sounds very suspicious… he says 'entity' a lot," says one woman. "If you're in charge of a business, you should take full responsibility for your actions."

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

Who It's For: Young Obama supporters, who will think it's funny and then share it on social media. It's also for reporters: See guys? Regular people care about this issue. (Also: ignore the polling that suggests they don't.)

What Everyone Else Thinks: What does this have to do with the economy?

The Effect: It's funny and engaging, in part because of the blonde woman's skillful smirk at the word "entity." People love feeling like they're smarter than politicians, which this ad does by suggesting Romney's words don't line up with common sense. B+


The Ad: Mitt Romney, "Where Did All the Money Go?"

The Issues: Stimulus money that went to Obama supporters.

The Message: Obama burned through billions of dollars on his pals and "overseas companies," in the words of Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer. Windmills from China, electric cars from Finland, the ad says, as piles of money burn.

Who'll See It: TV viewers in swing states.

Who It's For: People who think Obama's mismanaged the economy but aren't ready to back Romney yet.

What Everyone Else Thinks: The company that built the cars in Finland says the federal money it received was from a Bush-era program, and that it went to hire people in the U.S.

The Effect: The message is clear and simple. And it kind of pleasantly rhymes like a Dr. Seuss book at the beginning: "Where did all the Obama stimulus money go? Friends, donors, campaign supporters…" B


The Ad: Mitt Romney, "Mitt Dancing Around The Issues Volume I"

The Issues: Mitt Romney wouldn't say if he'd release more than one year of his taxes he'd release during the Republican primary, and now he says he'll only release two years.

The Message: Romney won't give a straight answer on his taxes. The ad shows clips of Romney not wanting to talk about his taxes cut with clips of his wife's Olympic dressage horse, Rafalca, prancing.

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

Who It's For: The kids who want to make fun of Ann Romney's fancy horse sport.

What Everyone Else Thinks: The DNC is attacking an American Olympic hero!

The Effect: The horse clips have potential, but the DNC did not take full advantage of the opportunity to make Romney look silly, because dressage is an objectively funny horse sport. The clips of Romney show some great facial expressions, but the circus music is dumb. C


The Ad: Republican National Committee, "Green Energy VC Paul Holland In 2009 On Obama DOE Stimulus Adviser"

The Issues: The RNC is doing a series of ads saying Obama rewarded his biggest donors with special deals. This is another, featuring Paul Holland, who gave money to Obama and bragged on a 2009 panel about his companies getting stimulus money.

The Message: These people are so smug about blowing taxpayer money! Holland tells the crowd that he told a Department of Energy adviser who had to disperse stimulus funds that he was "about to get treated like a hooker dropped into a prison exercise yard." Which, one, ew, and two, doesn't completely make sense. "Isolated truck stop" might have been better?

Who'll See It: It's a web-only ad.

Who It's For: Reporters, so they dig up dirt backing up Republicans charge that Obama is a "crony capitalist," plus conservatives looking to feel outraged.

What Everyone Else Thinks: The point of the stimulus was to get the economy going by giving businesses money, not giving nice people money.

The Effect: Holland looks like a huge jerk. But for half of the RNC's audience, at least, that attitude is not surprising. Also, the ad doesn't show photos of Holland and Obama together. C

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

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