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 accuses Mitt Romney of using coal miners as props, Romney talks straight into the camera again, the Romney campaign admits Joe Biden is better at selling their economic message, and an anti-immigration group targets black voters.
The Ad: Barack Obama, "Mandatory"
The Issues: The coal miners in Mitt Romney's coal ads.
The Message: The ad is based on a story by WWVA News Radio 1170's David Blomquist reporting that the coal miners in Romney's ad were forced to take an unpaid day at work to go to Romney's rally. "They took a roll call," Blomquist says, "And they had a list of who was there and who wasn't. And felt that they wouldn't have had a job if they did not attend." The final text on the screen is subtle: "Mitt Romney. Not One of Us." (Just kidding, it is the opposite of subtle.)
Who'll See It: TV viewers in Ohio.
Who It's For: Working-class whites in Ohio. Obama is polling ahead of Romney in Ohio, in part because Romney isn't crushing Obama among working-class white males there. Romney has aired ads meant to exploit the sense that it's Obama's fault the coal industry has declined in the state, and this is a response. But more generally, the ad is meant to shift working-class resentment toward Republicans.
What Everyone Else Thinks: All political rallies are staged.
The Effect: The story makes Romney look bad, but the issue is tiny compared to the big issues of the election. B+
The Ad: Mitt Romney, "Many Americans"
The Issues: The economy, Romney's compassion for the American people.
The Message: This is the second ad in which Romney looks directly into the camera. The first was released to humanize the candidate -- to make voters think the opposite of what Obama's ad above claims, that Romney's not "one of us." Romney says, "Too many Americans are struggling, living paycheck to paycheck… We should measure compassion by how many Americans are able to get good paying jobs, not how many are on welfare… My economic plan will get America back to work..."
Who It's For: Voters who don't like Obama's handling of the economy but have an unfavorable view of Romney.
What Everyone Else Thinks: Romney hasn't been very specific about what's in his economic plan.
The Effect: Romney speaking into the camera catches your attention, but it's not much different than last week's ad. B-
The Ad: Mitt Romney, "Couldn't Say It Better"
The Issues: On Tuesday, Joe Biden said the middle class had been "buried" the last four years.
The Message: That's true, because of the Obama administration's economic policies! The ad starts with Romney and Ryan saying the middle class has been hurting while piano rock plays. The Biden says it's been "buried" and the ad text reads, "We couldn't have said it better ourselves."
Who'll See It: It's a web-only video.
Who It's For: Since it's a web-only video, it's probably mostly to rally supporters and get reporters to write about Biden's latest gaffe.
What Everyone Else Thinks: Isn't the Romney campaign's fundamental problem exactly what the ad says? Biden is accidentally better at explaining the bad economy than Romney is.
The Effect: The lame piano rock does make you pay attention, and Biden's gaffe is pretty damning. But the ad is a reminder that Romney hasn't been good at selling his economic message. C
The Ad: NumbersUSA
The Issues: Blacks vs. immigrants.
The Message: A black guy in the family kitchen looks into the camera and says, "I'm tired of the stereotype that black Americans don't want to work… What I don't understand is why our leaders are going to admit another million immigrant workers next year to take jobs when 3 million black Americans can't find work. I mean, do our leaders really believe that black Americans don't want to work? Let's slow down mass immigration and save jobs for Americans — all Americans."
Who'll See It: The ad will air in MSNBC, which has a higher portion of black viewers, The Hill's Cameron Joseph reports.
Who It's For: The ad is trying to create pressure from one traditionally Democratic voting group -- black people -- to push back against legislation favored by another traditionally Democratic voting group -- Latinos.
What Everyone Else Thinks: NumbersUSA has been named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The Effect: With all the talk about the "47 percent" and "gutting welfare" this election, the line "I'm tired of the stereotype that black Americans don't want to work" will probably catch MSNBC's liberal viewers' attention. But it's unlikely those viewers will be persuaded by the rest of the message. C-