Several months ago, Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign released an ad which heavily implied that someone from President Obama’s reelection campaign said they would have to “Kill Romney” with personal attacks, even though that never happened. In a just-released web ad, the Romney campaign reconstructs that lie with a bizarre, paranoid dramatization of Michigan primary night at Obama campaign headquarters. The jittery, suspense-scored spot plays like a piece of feverish Daily Kos Obama campaign fanfic.
For the uninitiated, “fanfic” is shorthand for “fan fiction,” a genre of (usually low-quality) writing that allows fans (usually of sci-fi or comic books) the chance to imagine storylines that they’d otherwise never get to see, like Princess Leia marrying Mr. Spock and giving birth to a half-Vulcan Jedi Knight.
The Romney spot opens with the dateline “Chicago, Illinois Another Frustrating Night At Obama HQ,” then dissolves to a despondent-looking hand scrolling through the Obama campaign website, as a Fox News clip (from January?) plays in the background. That January clip is then interrupted by a present-day news alert announcing Romney’s victory in Michigan, and another of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer projecting Romney as the winner in Michigan and Arizona.
At this point, our faceless Obama campaign worker begins to feverishly email (someone named “jdoe,” who will doubtless be investigated by the conservative blogosphere) and text things like “What happened?” and “We spent a lot of money in Michigan – clearly not enough,” and “Time to step it up in Ohio,” all interspersed with quick-cuts of headlines about anti-Romney efforts in Michigan.
The spot finishes with this ominous email: “Time to take the ‘Kill Romney’ strategy to the next level.”
The problem, of course, is that nobody connected with President Obama’s campaign, or with the White House, ever said “Kill Romney,” no matter how much Team Romney wishes they did. The quote is from a Politico article, and was attributed to an anonymous Democratic strategist. Making up a bunch of texts and emails doesn’t change that. I’ve seen a lot of campaign ads, but I don’t remember ever seeing this particular tactic used.
While most viewers will cotton on to the fact that the spot is speculative (although some will fairly conclude that the texts and emails are dramatizations of actual campaign communications), I find it strange that you need a disclaimer for a commercial that shows a pickup truck on a snowboarding course, but not for an ad to choose the next leader of the free world.
The kernel of truth in the Romney ad is that the folks at Obama campaign HQ were most definitely rooting for Rick Santorum last night, and since this campaign began, their focus has rarely wavered from Mitt Romney. Whether that means they’re nervous or scared is an open question (but President Obama isn’t running around Michigan complimenting their tree height), it definitely means they’re smart. For a very long time now, Democrats have known that a candidate like Romney would appeal more to a general electorate than a Rick Santorum. About a year ago, the talk in the White House was over the ominous prospect of a Jon Huntsman nomination.
Even with all of his sharp right-turns during this primary, Mitt Romney remains the Republican with the best shot at appealing to the wider electorate, ironically because his failure to stick to his positions means that those positions won’t necessarily stick to him.
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