Tuesday, August 7, 2012

When Super PACs Attack: The Cancer Man Attack Ad

What you see above is the new Priorities USA (Obama) Super PAC ad "Understands." It features Joe Soptic--a person laid off when Bain capital closed his steel plant (Romney was running the Olympics at the time). You hear him narrate how his wife got sick--and without health care ... she didn't go to the doctor (or, indeed, tell anyone she was sick) because she couldn't afford it because Romney laid her husband off. Then she did go to the doctor--for pneumonia--but it turned out by then she already had stage 4 cancer ... and she died 22 days later.

He says he doesn't think Romney knows what he does to people ... or cares.

The Ad
The ad is about a minute long. It features little but Joe's soulful eyes staring at you as he tells his story. The music is appropriately somber. We do get a cut to an image of Romney sitting at a conference table in a power suit with the super-imposed text talking about how he and Bain made millions for themselves ... then closed the plant.

 We also see the plant--with concentration-camp barbed wire around it--and we do see a note that he found a job as a custodian for half his salary. It ends with Joe saying: "I do not think Mitt Romney realizes what he's done to anyone--and I--furthermore, I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned."

What's It Mean?
Everyone knows what it freakin' means. However the environment around it is more interesting than the message. We have been told that the "Bain Ads are not working" by various observers (usually conservative). This could well lend some credence to that--it's way more nuclear than Bain ads we've seen before.

We've been told the Bain ads are working by some observers (pro Obama, I would say)--do they think this sort of attack can "finish him?" I'm not sure (what would that look like? Romney's favorables falling below 10%? Is that possible? This could actually raise them if people feel it's unfair).

I cannot see a condition where Obama's actual campaign finds this an attractive strategy so is it posible that his Super PAC really is not coordinating? I find that hard to believe. Does it mean there's panic in the Obama camp? Maybe--but with RCP putting him at +3 or more today I don't buy that ...

It's a mystery.

Perhaps the goal is to force a discussion of ObamaCare? But really? RomneyCare would've (presumably) helped with this if the problem was just a lack of insurance. I wouldn't think that would be a winning line of attack ("Romney's health care intitiave would've saved her--IF ONLY I LIVED IN Massachusetts!!").

What Do I Think?
We'll get to that--but let me start with what the Ace of Spades blog thinks:
The most disgusting ad you're likely to see until Obama is down another few points in the polls.

Ok Romney Death Star, you were able to destroy Gingrich, Santorum, Perry et al. Let's see you take on this Son of Bitch.

I'm generally of the "politics ain't fair" point of view--but that doesn't give a pass on out-and-out bad taste ... which this is. Firstly, it's quite arguably "a lie." Romney may or may not have had control of Bain during that time--but if you are going to attack him that viciously, man, pick something he was there for (note: I have heard it suggested that he only did the really bad stuff when he had some kind of deniability--while possible, I see zero evidence that's true. It is way, way more likely that whoever ran Bain when Romney left engineered all the "bad stuff.").

But whatever I think of it one thing is sure: Team Obama (which the Super PAC counts as, whoever "approves it" at the end) is testing a theory. The theory is that when you go ultra-negative you hurt yourself at least as much as you hurt the other guy. This should be can of worms Obama does not want to open. 

Let's say the ad works: Obama's numbers go down and so do Romney's--Obama can be hit with the kitchen sink which has, you know, a chance of really hurting. After this? So long as Romney's Super PAC(s) do it? How can anyone complain?

Romney is lower than Obama in terms of positives but I think that likely means he has a floor. Obama ... can still be hurt--and probably hurt worse.

Secondly: we haven't really seen anything this nasty on the campaign that I'm aware of. Untruths from all angles? Sure. Lies? Depends on who you ask. But going straight for the jugular with a stunningly emotional pitch like this? I can't think of a Romney ad that's that nasty.

It has been said that everyone in politics assumes the other guy is dirtier and nastier than they are--so they have to hit first. Well, that's a self-fulfilling prophecy. I'd be surprised if Team Romney doesn't run Rev-Wright, the towers falling on 9/11, and "GOD DAMN AMERICA" after this.

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