Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Six Days Until Doomsday: Romney and the Michigan Vote

The hit-list (from Legal Insurrection). With six days to go Michigan is a dead heat (RCP shows Santorum up by .8%, Nate Silver shows Santorum at 51% chance of victory). ABC Reports that a "Secret Senator" (a senator who wishes to remain anonymous) says that if Romney can't win Michigan they need a new candidate--specifically? Jeb Bush.

Romney, for his part, is emphasizing his Michigan roots and has run attack ads and even has Donald Trump doing robo-calls to attack Santorum. This is closing the gap--and with the remaining time, if the trend continues it should be enough to shift the win to the Romney column (also note: Gingrich, still in the race, is bleeding Santorum votes and if Gingrich gets another 10-100MM infusion he could do some real damage).

However what's interesting is that an attack ad against Santorum has come from another direction: Ron Paul. This is interesting because there have been observations that the two are friends (apparently their wives like each other) and that the ad (which we'll look at below) is actually helping Romney at this point more than himself (also note: Paul launched some vicious ads at Gingrich when he was ahead earlier in the cycle). The possible motivations?

  • Get himself (or his son) on the ticket? This is far fetched but, in a contested / brokered convention it's not impossible.
  • Get some serious leverage on the platform with Romney, the still-likely winner. This is more likely since it appears that Paul will hold a larger number of delegates than his current numbers show.
  • Get a cabinet position from Romney should he win? Maybe--but can you imagine having to govern around Paul's staunch libertarianism? 
In any event, here is FAKE:

The Ad
It's 35 seconds long and from Ron Paul and not his Super PAC. It opens quickly with a paper-cut-out Santorum popping up and the jaunty male narrator asking: "Is this dude serious?" with carnival-font letters and an arrow pointing at the Santorum cut-out.

What is it with paper Santorum's? Is it just a cheap way of using his image? I can see Santorum's own people not wanting to have the "real" Santorum shot at (especially because in Santorum's anti-Romney ad, Santorum wasn't shooting back)--but using it here? I guess it's because you aren't showing footage so you need to do something to explain why his image is up there ...

"Fiscal Conservative? REALLY?" The Santorum cut-out is opening his suit superman style to reveal a Fiscal Conservative logo under it. But an arrow-sign pops up with the word 'REALLY' on it. "Santorum voted to raise the debt ceiling five times"

A capital building icon with the words Debt Ceiling shoots up on expanding pillars. Santorum stands in front grinning his signature grin with his hand up, five fingers extended. "And doubled the size of the department of education!"

A massive belly with the word SIZE scrawled across it fills the screen. Two tape-measures criss cross it like police tape with the narrative spelled out. "Then supported the biggest entitlement expansion since the 60's!"

You see legal papers with the word ENTITLEMENT visible and then a quick cut to Santorum standing next to a stack of of the papers with the numbers 727 Billion screaming out in front of them. "Not Groovy!" Says the narrator.

A tie-dyed whirlpool of colors fills the screen and a polaroid picture with the words Not Groovy and Santorum's sneering smile whirls to the center. The words are in the psychedelic font with all curls and curves. Ron Paul's voters don't remember polaroid photos.

"Santorum voted to send billions of our tax dollars to dictators!" a gray globe whirls onto the screen and Santorum stands on one side while a red arrow (tax dollars) arcs over to the other side of the world where Kim Jong-Il and Mubarak.

"And even hooked Planned Parenthood up with a few million bucks." A mass of money falls down to reveal a grinning doctor (presumably having just performed numerous abortions) giving a thumb's up).

"Rick Santorum a fiscal conservative?" The ad finishes up with? "FAKE."

A picture of Bigfoot stands by a tree holding a FAKE sign.

What Does It Mean?
This ad is not targeted at Ron Paul's base. Ron Paul pretty much dominates the under-30 demographic. By 2012 they certainly do not remember the 60's or even the 70's (or, uh, much of the 80's--which they were actually alive for). The ad is likely targeted at Tea Party voters who care about fiscal conservatism. 

I find it unlikely that they would shift to the Ron Paul column if dislodged from Santorum. 

Most interesting is the Planned Parenthood segment: Rick Santorum is the anti-Abortion poster child. He's the religious right culture warrior. In any event, he plans to repeal all Clinton-era (and certainly Obama era) federal contraception funding.

What Do I Think?
This is a good ad. It's reasonably funny (I actually laughed at the Bigfoot picture) and it makes its case as well as it can in 35 seconds. It goes after the right audience and, with the exception of Planned Parenthood (which, I think, given Santorum's reputation will make viewers more likely to question the whole ad rather than Santorum) it plays to Ron Paul's strengths (he wouldn't send money to foreign dictators--or allies! He'd cut entitlements with a chainsaw. Far from increasing the size of the Department of Education--he'd nuke it!).

Ron Paul has never had a problem with hip quick-cut ads. Whoever is doing his messaging has probably been doing it for so long they have it down to a science. It also helps that Ron Paul is nothing if not consistent.

I think that more than the content, though, will be the direction: if it appears to un-dedcideds (about 20-40% in Michigan) that Santorum is being "hit from all sides" they may conclude that there is something wrong with him even if the individual charges are a bit iffy. Furthermore, if Ron Paul really is angling for a Romney-alliance then it's effectively "two more Super PACs" that don't have to announce any affiliation. That's going to leave a mark.

Grade: B (solid)

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