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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: Remember how in like every political story for the past year, reporters would caution that this election is all about the economy? Right now, that's not true. It's about welfare, Medicare, student loans, and mean ads.

The Ad: Mitt Romney, "Paid In"

The Issues: Medicare, and who will do more to destroy it. 

The Message: Obama is cutting $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare -- a program "that's not for you," the narrator says. You kind, hard-working old people paid your money to get Medicare, and now Obama wants to spend that money on someone else, probably those grandchildren who never call.

Who'll See It: The campaign has not made that information -- where the ad will air, and how much -- available.

Who It's For: Old people -- and maybe nervous Republicans? "The message here is that we're on offense on Medicare," an unnamed Romney aide tells BuzzFeed's Zeke Miller. Some Republicans are worried that by picking Paul Ryan to be his running mate, Romney will frighten away old people with Ryan's proposed changes to transform Medicare into a voucher program.

What Everyone Else Thinks: Those cuts don't cut benefits, and the Ryan plan makes the same cuts to Medicare. 

The Effect: If I were an old person, this would make me angry at ungrateful youth with their loud music and ability to get health insurance on their parents plans till the age of 26. B

The Ad: Barack Obama, "Mitt Romney's False Welfare Reform Attack Ads"

The Issues: As the title makes clear, a Romney ad about welfare.

The Message: A Romney ad says Obama changed welfare rules to "gut" welfare reform, removing requirements that recipients try to find work. Fact-checkers have called the ad "pants on fire" false, because Obama waived the rules for states only if they were seeking more effective alternatives to help people find work.

Who'll See It: It's a web-only ad, so those who seek it out: reporters and political junkies.

Who It's For: Those reporters, so they'll say Romney's making false attacks, or at least drop in caveats if they do mention them. 

What Everyone Else Thinks: At The Washington Monthly, Ed Kilgore says there's more to be upset about than that the ad isn't true. "It’s a flat-out racial appeal aimed at convincing non-college educated white voters that this black president wants to take their tax dollars to give them to his shiftless black brothers and sisters. This very non-southern national Republican ticket is going far out of its way to replicate the most despicable tactics of old-school southern racial demagoguery, and is apparently so invested in this strategy that no end of fact-checking and shaming will convince them to let up for a moment."

The Effect: It's an extensive roundup of reporters -- mostly on MNSBC -- saying the ad is false. But it's long and won't convince anyone who wasn't a supporter already. C

The Ad: Mitt Romney, "America Deserves Better"

The Issues: A Priorities USA ad linking Romney to Bain's takeover of a Kansas City plant to that plant's layoffs to a woman not having health insurance to her death.

The Message: "What does it say about a president's character when his campaign tries to use the tragedy of a woman's death for political gain?" a narrator says. 

Who'll See It: Romney is re-releasing the ad, Politico's James Hohmann reports. It will air in Iowa as Obama tours the state on a bus.

Who It's For: People who don't think Obama's done a good job but like him personally.

What Everyone Else Thinks: Obama's campaign didn't release the ad it's criticizing.

The Effect: For an ad whining about negative ads, it's not bad. But there's nothing interesting or innovative about it, unless you could video of a YouTube page. C+

The Ad: Barack Obama, "Get Real"

The Issues: How expensive college is, and who wants to make it cheaper.

The Message: The ad says this is how Romney thinks you should pay for college or start a business, showing the Republican telling college kids, "Take a risk, get the education, borrow money from your parents." The narrator sneers, "Hope they can afford it." Obama doubled college grants, the ad says. Romney could "cut college aid for nearly 10 million students… Get real, Mitt!"

Who'll See It: The TV ad will air in Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia

Who It's For: The youth, women who worry about their youth's education.

What Everyone Else Thinks: The National Review's Katrina Trinko points out that when Romney suggested kids borrow money from their parents, he meant for a business loan, not a college loan. And the math is a little fuzzy, which is why the ad says "could" instead of "would."

The Effect: This ad makes me nostalgic for the days when people would say, "Get real, this is the 90s."  It makes Romney seem like an aloof jerk, but there's nothing particularly interesting about the ad, it's stock photos, or it's generic narrator. C


The Ad: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, automated phone calls in competitive House races.

The Issues: Paul Ryan's budget plan and the changes to Medicare it proposes.

The Message: Politico's James Hohmann reports this is a sample script, showing that Democrats think they can hurt Republican lawmakers by tying them to the vice-presidential candidate's views on entitlements:

"Hi. This is Julie calling from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to alert you to a new development about Medicare. Your Congressman, Dan Lungren, voted for a budget that would end Medicare and now the budget's architect, Paul Ryan, is the Republican candidate for Vice President. A nonpartisan analysis showed that Ryan's budget would raise health care costs for seniors by $6,400. The Tax Policy Center also said the Ryan budget would give people making over $1 million a year an average tax break of $265,000. And Congressman Lungren supported all of it. That's just wrong. Call Congressman Dan Lungren at (916) 859-9906 and tell him to stop protecting millionaires at the expense of Medicare and the middle class."

Who'll Hear It: Voters in 50 congressional districts. Not all of the districts are places where Republicans are vulnerable, but most of them are in swing states. Iowa Rep. Steve King is on the list, though he's held his seat since 2003 and the race is rated Lean Republican. But Iowa is a swing state this year.

Who It's For: Old people.

What Everyone Else Thinks: Ryan's changes to Medicare wouldn't take effect for 10 years and wouldn't affect people 55 and older.

The Effect: By invoking the Tax Policy Center, the ad sounds so official! B-

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

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