There’s an old adage in professional sports, “Defense Wins Championships”. Which is true, great offensive teams dazzle during the regular season, put up awesome numbers and end up with cable highlights, but it’s the defensive teams that will keep points off the board and slow down the other squad that ends up winning the game. Too bad for Mitt Romney that presidential elections aren’t like sports. The recent slew of ads that have been run by President Obama have the Romney campaign on defense. Ultimately if Romney can’t find a way to turn around his ad strategy, Obama will have won the ad wars before Labor Day weekend.
Exhibit #1 Good Offense
The internet has been all a – Twitter lately with Obama’s tough new attack ad against Mitt Romney. The commercial, called “Firms” features headlines from stories over the past year pointing out how during his time at Bain Capital Mitt Romney oversaw shipping jobs overseas, outsourcing work to India, and reminding the public about his off shore bank accounts and hidden money caches in the Cayman Islands. And the background sound throughout the commercial? Mitt singing America, the Beautiful to a group of seniors (recorded during the Florida primary). You can watch the entire ad here:
What makes this ad so effective is that it plays into a belief about Mitt Romney that has existed, even within his own party for over a year now: namely, that he is a rich business guy who doesn’t connect with the little people. Regardless of how you feel about Mitt Romney, hardly anyone in America believes that big corporations don’t ship jobs overseas and that rich guys don’t have off shore accounts. It’s part of the official “being a rich guy” rule book. A successful political commercial doesn’t make the consumer think, or assess, it simply plays upon what is already known or believed by the majority of the public. The Question is, how does the Romney campaign plan to respond?
First, it is important to point out that various news outlets, including the completely non-partisan factcheck.org have exposed the Obama campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney as the potential “outsourcer in Chief” to be either false or gross exaggerations. More specifically factcheck.org points out that not only was Romney not necessarily doing day to day management of Bain Capital when many of these off-shore adventures began, but that some of these decisions were made so far down the ladder of responsibility that it would be hard to peg them on Romney to begin with. But of course, the truth doesn’t entirely matter in campaigns. The perception, that Mitt Romney is a hold-over from the Boiler Room days of the ‘90s and the Wall Street days of the ‘80s makes these ads believable to many. So what does Team Romney do in response? They run and ad called “No Evidence” pointing out that Obama is lying about Romney, and that these distortions of the truth are signs that the president has failed to lead. Disrupting the flow of this argument is a brief segment where the ad points out that Obama lied about “Hillary Clinton too” and shows her famous “Shame on you Barack Obama!” press conference. You can see the entire ad here:
Romney’s ad would work much better if he focused on what really weakens Barack Obama, his poor performance on the economy, rather than getting into a tit for tat about who is or is not telling the truth. Why? Because Mitt Romney cannot win the argument over his time at Bain Capital. In political campaigns, yelling out “You’re a liar” doesn’t work nearly as well because most people are not paying enough attention to the response they only care about the accusation. The campaign that is always in response mode is losing the air wars. Right now that’s where Romney is.
The ugly truth is that it is entirely too late for the Mitt Romney campaign to change the narrative about his time as a corporate executive. Newt’s been harping on this since January and the fact that it still tips the meter is a sign that he’s just going to have to accept his past and start going after Obama from another angle. The key is, Romney doesn’t have much time to develop a counter-punch.
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.