AdWatch: Swarm of Romney ads strikes local chords

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By BRIAN BAKST, Associated Press

TITLE: "Better Future"

LENGTH: 30 Seconds

AIRING: Mitt Romney's campaign produced 15 separate ads with a common theme to air in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.

KEY IMAGES: Each opens with a panning shot of the Republican convention before zooming in on Romney as he contends, "This president can ask us to be patient. This president can tell us it was someone else's fault. But this president cannot tell us that you are better off today than we he took office."

The ads diverge from there, each homing in on looming defense cuts, the rising national debt, lingering problems with the housing market, concerns over stubbornly high energy prices or difficulties in the manufacturing sector, depending on its target audience.

Somber tones and Barack Obama images accompany a "We're not better off under President Obama" message. The ads shift to an uplifting musical score and inspiring shots of Romney as a narrator assures his policies would lead to a deluge of new jobs, the number changing depending on the state. All close with a local touch, from cornfields in Iowa to the Charlotte skyline in North Carolina.

ANALYSIS: The swarm of ads comes on the heels of high-energy Republican and Democratic conventions and as the race reaches its general election stride. The places the ads will run in send an unmistakable signal about the eight states where Romney will largely concentrate his efforts in the final two months.

The common thread is a focus on each state's job climate, which speaks to the Romney campaign's long-held belief that voter anxiety over the economy will decide a close election in his favor. Each ad ends with an eye-catching number of jobs Romney says he will inspire — from 59,000 in New Hampshire to 700,000 in Florida.

But rather than a standard message, Romney hits local chords. It's a strategy geared toward establishing a better connection with voters with disparate concerns, sometimes shaped by the major employment bases or particular economic struggles around them.

In an Iowa version, he drives at Midwestern sensibilities about living within personal means by raising alarm about "a prairie fire of debt that grows over $3 billion each day."

In Florida, a state with rampant home foreclosures, one Romney spot promises "alternatives to mortgage foreclosure" and eased borrowing for home buyers.

For Colorado, Virginia and other states with major military outposts, Romney's commercials stoke fears about billions of dollars in defense spending cuts if Obama and Congress can't find a substitute for automatic cuts envisioned by a fill-in-the-blanks debt deal they reached last year.

If Romney effectively pinpoints state-specific priorities and problems, the solutions he offers are left more to the imagination. Thirty-second ads don't lend themselves to substantial detail, but the blueprints here are especially vague.

To cope with federal red ink, the ads vow he'll "cut government spending" without saying from where. To bolster the manufacturing sector, the fix is to "stand up to China" on trade without indicating how. To encourage domestic energy production, viewers are told he will "repeal Obama's excessive regulations" and "foster innovation" without going any further. To answer worries about defense, the answer is simply "reverse Obama defense cuts" without hinting at how to plug the resulting budget gap.

On the defense spending issue, the Republican ticket doesn't have clean hands. Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan voted for the budget control agreement as a Wisconsin congressman and House Budget chairman. He has since voted to block the cuts by curtailing other domestic spending on things like food stamps and subsidized health care. That legislation that never made it to Obama.

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

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