Romney ad portrays him as conservative leader

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By HENRY C. JACKSON, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — TITLE: "Conservative Record."

LENGTH: 30 seconds.

AIRING: Cable and broadcast stations in Wisconsin.

KEY IMAGES: Mitt Romney speaking at a podium during campaign events. As the former Massachusetts governor speaks, text stating "proven fiscal conservative" and "boldest GOP agenda since Reagan '80" appears on screen with citations.

"I spent my career in the private sector," Romney says. "In Massachusetts, when I came in we faced almost a three-billion-dollar budget gap. And there were some that said, 'Why don't we just raise taxes?' or 'Why don't we just borrow money?' We actually cut spending. I balanced the budget every single year and by the time I left we had established over two billion dollars of a rainy-day fund. The principles of business work in government, and it's high time to bring those principles of fiscal responsibility to Washington, D.C."

ANALYSIS: With a resounding victory this week in Illinois, Mitt Romney is ignoring his rivals for the GOP nomination and focusing on his own message. This ad in Wisconsin, which holds its primary April 3, is aimed at bolstering Romney's reputation as fiscal conservative.

The ad also marks a strategic shift. After slogging it out with Rick Santorum in several states, including ads sharply attacking the former Pennsylvania senator's record, Romney is no longer tearing down his opponents. Romney's ad is sharply positive, and even avoids any direct attack on President Barack Obama.

The ad's claims, which come straight from Romney's stump speech, are mostly true although a bit pumped up.

When Romney took over as Massachusetts governor, he did face a significant budget gap and worked to fix it. The ad implies that he did this amid widespread support for raising taxes, a claim that can't be backed up. While Romney did not raise income taxes and advocated for lower personal taxes, he raised business taxes by $140 million and approved millions of dollars in new fees and fines. He did cut spending, but that came almost entirely in 2003, his first year in office. After that, new revenue from the fees and business taxes he enacted helped increase state revenue.

Romney balanced the budget, but that was no special feat since state law requires it. Romney's claim that he left office with $2 billion in a rainy day fund is accurate, according to state budget records.

In focusing on his gubernatorial record and his conservative credentials, Romney is both looking past his Republican primary opponents and addressing criticism that his campaign doesn't always make the positive case for him. The ad also is a veiled response to Santorum, who consistently has challenged Romney's allegiance to conservative principles.

The ad reflects the Romney campaign's confidence that Romney may finally be putting away his opponents in the race for the GOP nomination. Romney has tried to pivot away from his Republican rivals before, only to see them force him to pay attention again.

This ad represents Romney's positive case for himself. It sets in place a framework he may well keep if he gets the Republican presidential nomination and takes on Obama, whose budget deficits and record on spending Romney has consistently criticized.

EDITOR'S NOTE _ An occasional look at the claims in political advertising.

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