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Friday, August 10, 2012

The Cancer Ad and American Crossroads

Jon Healey writes at The Los Angeles Times:
Sometimes the presidential campaign feels like it's scripted by George Orwell.

This week, Republican Mitt Romney released an ad accusing President Obama of "taking the work out of welfare" because of a proposal to let states experiment with more ways to move people from the dole to private payrolls. Romney might as well put out an ad saying "I was for federalism before I was against it."

But that particularly cynical distortion seems like the biblical truth in comparison to a new commercial by the pro-Obama "super PAC" Priorities USA Action. Called "Understands," it all but accuses Romney of killing the spouse of a former steelworker who had the misfortune of working for a manufacturer (GST Steel) purchased by Bain Capital.


There are so many things wrong with that ad, it's hard to know where to begin. My colleague Matea Gold, the Washington Post, CNN and the New York Times are among those who've found gaping holes in the ad's story line; for starters, Soptic's wife Ilyona "Ranae" Soptic obtained health insurance from her own employer after her husband's plant closed. Oh, and yes, Romney was on leave from Bain, running the Salt Lake City Olympics, at the time GST went bankrupt.
But like LBJ's Daisy spot, which only ran once as a paid commercial on broadcast television, the cancer ad seems to be a play for reverb.  At The New York Times, Jeremy W. Peters and Michael D. Shear write:
According to Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, there are no instances of the ad ever running as a paid commercial. Kantar uses technology to track the appearance and frequency of political ads across the country. And so far their data show that the commercial has never been shown on broadcast television or national cable.

Bill Burton, one of the founders of Priorities USA Action, acknowledged that the ad had indeed never been broadcast. But all that free media attention has helped it chalk up nearly half-a-million views online, according to YouTube.

More important for Mr. Burton and his super PAC, however, may be where the ad is being watched. Of the top five states where people are watching the ad, one is California — often in the top because of the size of the state. A reliably Democratic state in presidential elections, California is not a focus of either the Romney or Obama campaign.

But the other four are: Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

According to Mr. Burton, who said the ad will eventually run on television, it has been watched by 48,979 people in Florida; 28,473 people in Pennsylvania; 23,739 people in Ohio and 22,887 people in Virginia. 
American Crossroads is weighing in: