Friday, September 28, 2012

Romney's Return Fire: Too Many Americans

As Romney's stock hits an all time low on the betting markets (19.3%) he unleashes Too Many Americans-a 1-minute Ad that is presumed to be reaction to the 47% video that is still being played in power-rotation by Team Obama. As people are noting, this one looks like "real damage" (as opposed to many other gaffes, the dog-on-car nonsense, and so on). No, it isn't a take on immigration--Romney thinks Too Many Americans are living in poverty. He wants you to know he thinks that too.

The Ad
The 1 minute, 1 second ad Too Many Americans opens with Mitt Romney in a plaid shirt in "his living room" explaining to us that too many Americans are suffering while he looks right at the camera and exudes sincerity and compassion (a word he uses twice). The music is low and dead neutral. There's no message here beyond what Romney is telling us. What he is telling us is this:
  • More Americans are living in poverty than when Obama took office. Fifteen million more Americans are on food stamps.
  • President Obama and Romney both care about poor and middle class families. The difference is that Romney's plans will actually make things better for them.
  • We shouldn't measure compassion by how many people are on welfare--we should measure compassion by how many people are able to get off welfare and get a good playing job.
  • Romney's plan will create 12 million new jobs over the next four years helping lift families out of poverty and strengthening the middle class.
  • We can't afford another four years like the last four years.
I have underlined the words I think are important (the quotes are exact save for "I" instead of "Romney").

Mechanically there are four jump-cuts, including one at the 30-second mark (in case they want to cut it for 20 second slices?). There is one slow pan at the very end to bring Romney into the center of the frame. There is one slow "zoom in" which occurs during the "President Obama and I both care about poor and middle class families" line.

What Does It Mean?
Fist things first: it means of course I freakin' care about the poor. Romney projects sincerity but there's also some anger--there is no penitence. There can't be: he can't admit the 47% speech was a mistake--how would that work? He's also mad about Obama's failure to help all these hurting people: his heart aches for them and he blames Obama for not having righted the ship.

In other words: they're victims of Obama's policies. Here is the breakdown:
  1. Food Stamps. Obama is the food-stamp-president. Gingrich hit him with that and it (maybe) hurt. Romney won't go quite that far--but he's going to bring that up. Racist? Not really--but pointed.
  2. President Obama cares about the poor and middle class. This is the pay-load. This is why the camera zooms instead of cutting close. We are meant to understand that he's not an angry guy--he cares. Obama cares. Why does he say Obama cares? Because polling shows people believe he does. Why not ditch that line? I think it's because Romney knows (and I'm putting my head on the desk as I try to type) that unless he acknowledges Obama's caring ... he won't be credible. This is a sad, sorry state of affairs--but there you have it. If he did not need this, it would not be here. If it was not crucial it would not get the the special treatment.
  3. Compassion. He says it twice. Because he has compassion, dammit. He said it twice. How much compassion do you want?
  4. Twelve Million / 4 Years. Everyone wants him to be specific. That's specific. Actual numbers, and everything. Is that specific enough for you?
  5. Afford. The debt crisis--he doesn't want to spend time talking about that because he's talked his ass off about that and it turned out no one cared (other than conservatives). But he's not going to let it go just like that either. When he says "afford" he means afford--like with money.
What Do I Think?
This is not "a great ad"--but it maybe gets the job done. In this case the job is to move the polls a half-point or so in order to make sure that it blunts the 47% damage. He has to change the conversation just a bit this week so that after the conventions debates where he totally kills he can start rebuilding his message. That's the plan.

Will this work? I have to say I doubt it. I think Romney executes very well--his facial expressions convey exactly the right mix of compassion and outrage. There's a hint of a smirk--which isn't good--but enough that he's not all doom-and-gloomy.

But here's the real problem: Romney has more money than Obama--but it is being used way less efficiently.
  1. He is running fewer ads in battleground states than Obama. This is because campaigns get the lowest possible dollar and a lot of Romney's money is RNC and Super-PAC. They pay more per ad.
  2. He is paying his people double what Obama is paying so Obama has 2x as many people--this is hugely important in the GOTV ground game. This is CEO Romney: how do you get the best people in business? You hire the A-Team. The A-Team cost top dollar. How does Obama do it? Like this
When you put that together? Romney needs to do more than change the conversation--he needs to not only change the conversation but then put the new conversation into a time-traveling DeLorean and get it up to 88 miles an hour.

His problem is also this: the 47% speech was hailed as doctrine by a lot of conservatives. Even those, like Erick Erickson--who think he got it just a bit wrong--want to hear more about that. They don't want compassionate conservativism--that was Bush--look where that got us. Now, Romney knows that at this point the Republicans are locked in. If he ate a live baby on stage he'd still be preferable to Obama so he does have some leeway--and I think they will forgive him this--especially in the media environment (I do not see conservative blogs talking about it)--but it isn't the message they want him to have.

That's why the target market (so-called Luntz's Dunces after GOP Psychological Manipulator Luntz who discovered that swing-voters (a) are stupid and (b) respond badly to "ideological" attacks on Obama) may not quite buy this either.

Watch the below video.

Rating: C

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