Political Ad Season Has Really Begun

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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: Planned Parenthood makes its biggest ad buy ever, Mitt Romney buys ads in Wisconsin, Sen. Bob Casey is endorsed by a man on a motorcycle, and Tommy Thompson is tied to George W. Bush. The conventions are over, so political ad season has really begun. For the next two months, you won't be able to get a snack during commercial breaks without hearing someone frighteningly intoning about Medicare.

The Ad: Planned Parenthood, "Romney Would Turn Back the Clock on Women's Health"

The Issues: The intersection of government and uteruses.

The Message: The ad shows Romney saying he opposes Roe v. Wade and "Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that." The narrator -- whose voice is just a little bit wobbly, as if she's a senior citizen -- says "we should be making our personal medical decisions, not Mitt Romney." 

Who'll See It: The group is spending $3.2 million to buy TV ads in Virginia and Ohio, The Wall Street Journal reports, its biggest ad buy ever. The first round will air in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and cost $1.85 million. 

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Who It's For: Women. Democrats need a big gender gap to win the White House and Senate races. Several speakers at the Democratic National Convention talked about abortion rights, and the head of NARAL Pro-Choice America got a prominent speaking position.

What Everyone Else Thinks: What Romney actually said was that he'd get rid of federal funding of Planned Parenthood, not the group altogether. 

The Effect: When there was a big debate about forcing hospitals and other groups with religious affiliations to provide insurance that covers birth control, many female pundits complained that they couldn't believe contraception was still being debated. The little old-fashioned TV plays off that feeling. But other than that, it's just your standard concerned-voiceover political ad. B-

The Ad: Mitt Romney, "A Better Future: Wisconsin - Deficit"

The Issues: The national debt and jobs.

The Message: Wisconsin isn't better off than it was four years ago, because there's so much debt. "There's a prairie fire of debt that grows each day," the ad says, and Romney will cut government spending to create 240,000 jobs in Wisconsin. 

Who'll See It: This is part of Romney's big post-convention ad buy that did not initially include Wisconsin. One reason Republicans are nervous is that Romney hasn't expanded the number of swing states to solid blue states. With Pennsylvania polling strongly for Obama, Wisconsin is the only reliably blue state Romney's really competing in.

Who It's For: Swing voters who don't like Obama's handling of the economy -- and maybe who voted against the recall of Gov. Scott Walker, who pushed through a state law to curb union power and cut the state's budget.

What Everyone Else Thinks: As the Associated Press pointed out, in all these ads, Romney's plans for how he'd grow that very specific number of jobs are awfully vague.

The Effect: It's a standard political ad. Only the term "prairie fire of debt" is memorable. C+

The Ad: Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, "Harley"

The Issues: The Pennsylvania Democrat is liked by manly bikers, so you should reelect him senator.

The Message: "I’m the last guy you’d expect to say good things about a Senator. But I gotta give Bob Casey credit," a bearded, tattooed biker says. But Casey, he says, helps veterans and kept a Harley Davidson plant open in the state. 

Who'll See It: The TV ad is Casey's second of the general election, but his campaign didn't offer more details about how much it will air, Politics PA reports.

Who It's For: Men, who tend to vote Republican.

What Everyone Else Thinks: This is one of the more over-the-top attempts of a politician, which is a girly job involving words and cliques, to look like a manly man's man who does outdoor man things. At least Casey has the biker say about him, "Just too bad he doesn’t know how to ride a bike." An attempt to portray himself as able to hang would have been a step too far for Casey.

The Effect: The ad is ridiculous, but memorable. It's a way to list the senator's accomplishments in a way that might actually stick. A

The Ad: Wisconsin Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin, "Boy Did He"

The Issues: Republican Senate candidate Tommy Thompson's health care record and ties to George W. Bush. Thompson was Health and Human Services secretary under Bush.

The Message: Bush did not speak at the Republican National Convention. This ad helps show why. "Working for George Bush, Tommy Thompson cut a sweetheart deal with drug companies, making it illegal for Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices," the ad says, then notes Thompson sent to work for a lobbying firm that works for drug companies. "We went to Washington to change Washington, Washington changed us," Thompson says in an old clip. The ad concludes, "Tommy Thompson -- he's not for you anymore."

Who'll See It: Wisconsin TV viewers.

Who It's For: People who might fondly remember Thompson's term as Wisconsin's governor. Thompson is averaging a 7.8 percentage point lead over Baldwin.

What Everyone Else Thinks: Thompson was not actually a lobbyist, Bill Lueders of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Justice points out.

The Effect: The most interesting part of this ad is that it's like, Hey, remember George W. Bush? And the "anymore" in the sentence "He's not for you anymore" shows how the Baldwin campaign wants to spike any lingering affection for Thompson. Other than that, it's a boring ad.  C

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