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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 embraces the Big Bird meme, Rand Paul attacks Democrats on foreign aid, and Crossroads GPS puts money in five Senate races.

The Ad: Barack Obama, "Big Bird"

The Issues: Mitt Romney's policies for Wall Street and suggestion that he'd cut the subsidy to public broadcasting.

The Message: Hahaha, can you believe this guy thinks our biggest problem is PBS? "Big, yellow, a menace to our economy," the scary narrator says. The ad shows Romney saying his stump speech line about cutting funding for Big Bird, while showing Wall Street criminals 

Who'll See It: The Obama campaign is not spending any money to air the ads in swing states. It's for national cable only, NBC News' Chuck Todd reports. That means its real purpose is to get cable news shows to talk about the ad all day, instead of, say, Obama's performance in the debate. 

Who It's For: Liberals the campaign wants to cheer up. They're sad Obama didn't take it to Romney in the debate.

What Everyone Else Thinks: The ad "is the kind of small ball" that people used to make fun of the Romney campaign for, Politico's Maggie Haberman writes.

The Effect: The ad makes fun of the tropes of negative ads that the Obama campaign itself frequently employs. It's funny the one specific Romney offered in the debate for cutting spending was getting rid of the relatively small subsidy for PBS. Though reporters are hate-tweeting the ad, it is achieving its goal, which was to get them to talk about it. B

Update: Sesame Street hopes you won't see the ad at all! In a statement on its website, it says, "Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns. We have approved no campaign ads, and as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down."


The Ad: RANDPAC (Sen. Rand Paul's super PAC), "Joe Manchin"

The Issues: Foreign aid in the Middle East.

The Message: West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has voted for foreign aid to countries that don't even like us -- Egypt, Pakistan, Libya. "It's time to bring our taxpayer dollars home. It's time to bring Joe Manchin home, too."

Who'll See It: The ad will air on cable and broadcast statewide, Politico's James Hohmann reports. 

Who It's For: Manchin is likely to be reelected in November, according to Real Clear Politics' rankings. The ad might really be for Paul's potential supporters four years from now, Hohmann suggests. Paul is also airing an anti-foreign aid ad in Florida, which "can't hurt if he seeks the Republican nomination for president in 2016."

What Everyone Else Thinks: The message conflicts with Mitt Romney's message of more aggressive engagement overseas.

The Effect: The ad makes Democrats look weak. But it does not argue for a Republican alternative for making people in the Middle East like America more. It stops short of Ron Paul's argument that if America meddled less overseas, we'd have less problems with terrorism. C


The Ad: Crossroads GPS, "Stamp for him"

The Issues: North Dakota Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp likes Obama, opposes repealing Obamacare. 

The Message: "North Dakota doesn't need another Obama rubber stamp," the ad says. Obama has little chance of winning the state, but Heitkamp, a Democrat, does.

Who'll See It: Karl Rove's 501(c)4 is spending $5 million in five Senate races, Hohmann reports. Some of them, like North Dakota, were expected to be easy-ish wins for Republicans. But Heitkamp is personally popular in the state.

Who It's For: Those who don't like Obama but are open to Heitkamp. The most recent poll shows she's tied with Republican Rick Berg.

What Everyone Else Thinks: Heitkamp has defended her support for Obamacare by saying the law gives North Dakota important funding for doctors who take patients on Medicare.

The Effect: The ad ties Heitkamp to Obama, but there's nothing particularly memorable about it. C+

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

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