A refreshing tsunami of new, informative political ads has arrived – all in one day!
Just kidding – they’re the same old spots, amplifying sound bites to fit a one-sided narrative. But still, it’s a whopper of advertisements to digest in just one afternoon. If this is anything of a precursor of what’s to come after the summer … well, maybe best to take a bathroom break during the commercials.
Here’s a cheat-sheet for the ads coming to a TV in a swing state near you.
Romney the Crude Outsourcer
President Obama has two new ads out today. The first calls Mitt Romney a “corporate raider” who, as the founder of Bain Capital, “shipped jobs to China and Mexico.” Then, as governor of Massachusetts, he sent jobs to India! Booo.
Obama’s attacks are recycled. In an earlier, longer ad, ironically called, “We’ve Heard It All Before,” Obama’s campaign used the outsourced-jobs line against Romney. In both ads, in fine print, the campaign cited a 2012 Boston Globe article under the jobs-to-India claim. In the new one, it also cited a Los Angeles Times story from 2000 under the claim that Romney “shipped jobs to China and Mexico.”
The Globe reference was to this blog post, which is actually about another Obama ad about the same topic. It’s headlined, “New Obama campaign ad attacks Mitt Romney for outsourcing American jobs.” The Globe reported that as governor, Romney signed a contract with Citigroup that included a call center in India — a move that Democrats didn’t like but some economists liked because it saved money.
PolitiFact explored the issue more closely a couple of weeks ago and called Obama’s claim “half true.” Basically, Romney vetoed a bill that would have banned contracts with companies that outsourced jobs while potentially raising costs for low-skill jobs that might not have even necessarily been in Massachusetts. Also, Massachusetts didn’t outsource the call-center jobs to India but, rather, a state contractor did.
The L.A. Times reference is more obscure. It’s actually not a story by the Times, but rather a news brief by Bloomberg News that was reprinted on the Times’ website. In the news brief, the wire service said that Modus Media, a customer-service and inventory company in which Bain Capital invested, was cutting 200 jobs, transferring work from California to three other states, and “also opening a plant in Guadalajara, Mexico.”
A Swarm of Fees
Obama’s second ad charges that, as governor, Romney “raised taxes and fees on everyone else” who wasn’t rich. On health care, school bus rides, milk, driver’s licenses, nursing homes, lead poisoning prevention, meat inspection, fisherman, gun owners, nurses, electricians, hospitals, funeral homes, oh my!
A Democrat then passed on to the list-loving website BuzzFeed a convenient litany of 24 fees Romney tried to raise. It included fees on the blind, the mentally disabled, firefighters and other people who seemingly didn’t deserve the penalty.
Anchoring its claims to news reports, the Obama campaign cited an NPR article from Dec. 14 and a Washington Post story from Feb. 22 when the ad said Romney raised taxes and fees. That NPR report, however, said, “But whether he cut or actually raised taxes as governor of Massachusetts is a subject for debate.” The report quoted Mike Widmer, the president of a taxpayers foundation, who said Romney “raised fees very dramatically in his first year.” All of the claims about raising fees appeared to rest on Widmer.
The Post reference was a fact-check of a GOP debate that said Romney “added hundreds of millions of dollars in fees” in Massachusetts.
The Fine Print
Enough picking on Obama. Romney and his allies have unleashed their own ads that will be pumped through the airwaves. Two new commercials by separate mega-GOP groups mock Obama’s recent remark that “the private sector is doing fine.”
One, by Romney’s super PAC, Restore Our Future, appeared aimed at female voters – it was narrated by a woman who claimed that “under Obama, nearly 800,000 more women are unemployed.”
The cited source for that factoid was the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the BLS – customizable data charts available here – the number of women who were unemployed when Obama took office was 5,005,000. The latest data said there were 5,771,000 women unemployed, an increase of 766,000 women.
If you round that up, you could arrive at 800,000. But those two data points ignore the job losses and gains that happened between January 2009 and today – as many as 6,460,000 women were unemployed in November 2010, and that number has fallen generally since then.
The other ad, by the Americans for Prosperity 501(c)(4), funded by the Koch brothers, also quoted Obama’s “private sector is doing fine” comment and asked, “How can he fix the economy if he doesn’t know what’s wrong?”
The commercial cited a few well-known facts — “40 straight months of unemployment above 8 percent,” “12.7 million unemployed,” “debt reaches $15 trillion” — and concluded that “the private sector is not doing fine.”
The first one is true but, like the tidbit about women, doesn’t mention the ebbs and flows that the unemployment rate has taken since Obama was sworn in. The second is also true, as of the latest numbers that applied to May. And the last headline is also true, and old: The debt passed the $15 trillion mark last year.
The core of both of these ads was Obama’s comment — “The private sector is doing fine.” For the sake of context, here’s Obama’s full quote on June 8:
“The truth of the matter is that, as I said, we’ve created 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone. The private sector is doing fine. Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government – oftentimes, cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government and who don’t have the same kind of flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in.”
But that doesn’t sound very good in a GOP ad, does it?
Technically, Romney’s campaign released a new ad, too, though it was really an old ad, just dubbed in Spanish. It was a clear play for the Hispanic vote, broadcast just days after Obama’s immigration announcement, and it also teed off of Obama’s “doing fine” bite.
The ad was called “Van Bien?” and included a headline that said the unemployment rate among Hispanics is 11 percent.
A Second Opinion
The longest ad released today was from a conservative group called Concerned Women for America. Its spokeswoman, Alice Stewart, was Rick Santorum’s spokeswoman when he was running in the GOP primary.
The anti-”Obamacare” ad was a minute long and starred a doctor, Ami Siems, who ragged on the health law. Siems was in a similar, soft-piano-accompanied 2009 ad aimed at “Obamacare.” That ad was paid for by Americans for Prosperity.
“President Obama promised my patients that they could keep me. But what if, because of this new health care law, I can’t keep them?” Siems asked rhetorically in the new ad.
Siems said the health care law will add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit and increase spending by more than $1 trillion, though the ad provided no source for those bits. She did cite “studies.”
In March, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded that “Obamacare” will cost just more than $1 trillion, but over 10 years.