Sandwiched between 40+ critical electoral votes (OH & PA), I've seen my fair share of high-powered political attack ads. But this new Obama ad is brutal...
Of course the images of shuttered plants and laid off workers are powerful. So why not contrast them with offshore Caribbean/tax haven island hotspots. Absolutely devastating. But the most debilitating blow is the condescension. It's difficult to make an ad that completely mocks and dehumanizes your opponent without seeming over-the-top. UNLESS, you use the other guys words throughout. With this ad, they not only use his words, they use his stilted, ill-advised singing voice. Not since the pic of a hemelted Dukakis riding around in that army tank have we seen such an effective ad. Personally, I liked the one of a shifting, flip-flopping John Kerry windsurfing off the coast of Nantucket. But neither holds a candle to this new Obama ad.
As luck would have it, Gigi called me yesterday and asked me if I had any good questions for Mitt. WPXI gets to interview him today and throw a couple questions his way. Here's the question I would ask him...
"Gov. Romney, you're currently in the process of selecting a vice presidential running mate. This could be regarded as the most important decision you'll make during your Presidential campaign. With regard to the vetting process, how many years of tax returns will you request from your VP candidate."
This one's a killer for a few different reasons. There's really no good answer. Very reminiscent of the "how many times a day do you beat your wife" question. If you try to pivot away, it makes you look like you're trying to hide something. And it's pretty obvious that unless you reside in Antarctica, Mitt has some potentially incriminating info in those tax returns. Not necessarily anything illegal, but certainly some shit that could be used for the smear campaign of the century.
This is a hardball question. Very specific in nature. Not much room for a nuanced or vague response. Of course Mitt's pretty sharp and would likely pivot. But he could stumble if he isn't prepped for this specific question. It's one that may have slipped by his coaching team. If so, I could envision his automated, robotic tendencies being exposed to his detriment.
Not only does the question draw attention to the fact that Mitt has only released one year of tax returns (instead of the customary 20 or so), it opens everything up for a potential investigation into every financial statement of the VP running mate. Talk about a disastrous roll-out when you're trying to ignite the conservative base (assuming it's John Thune or maybe Pawlenty). I imagine that Pawlenty is squeaky clean (and lame), but who really knows about Thune? That's who I think it'll be. Incidentally, if I'm correct - good choice. Remember when they rolled out Palin and she was instantly bombarded with all the book banning, militia, troopergate, wacko-prayer stuff. You won't get all that with Romney's veep, but it wouldn't hurt to hammer home the tax return stuff... again... and again.
Plus, the question itself, if asked with the proper inflection makes it look like Mitt's hiding something. He's this shady businessman, corporate raider. Instead of Monte Burns, he's Monte Romney. Oh my god, you could frame Romney and his running mate like Burns and Smithers. That would be sick!
Dear god, it's more mocking and dehumanization. Perfect, all-encompassing analogy focused at the right age bracket (30-50 year olds). Tough to launch a counter-attack, too. Especially when your entire campaign is being run by establishment Republicans. Lately, Mitt has been upset. He's calling for an official apology and complaining about the negative campaigning. Weak strategy. He has gotten the "it's a distraction" part right, but you need to fight back with substance. Or you can personally mock and ridicule Obama, but that's an uphill battle because Obama will always dominate in the likability category.
Back to the tax return question. You could also frame it, "your father, a former politician, was a strong proponent of releasing tax return info. Why aren't you willing to follow in his footsteps?" This one packs a punch as well, but I'd stick to the VP line. More pertinent and potentially damaging.
Of course, Mitt can just say, "Well David, that's up to the vetting team whom I have the utmost confidence in." But I think there's a chance he might stumble. He might not be ready for this SPECIFIC line of interrogation. Could make for a killer sound-byte throughout the rest of the campaign. Could be that one youtube, gotcha moment that calls out for the release of everything. Either way, I don't see the tax return issue subsiding. It's the gift that keeps on giving - especially, if you're David Axelrod.
Romney has obviously made a political calculation that he'd be better off taking the criticism rather than releasing all the info. Romney's pretty sharp. I'm sure he has weighed the pros and cons in his head about 738 times. But the tax return issue is just one that won't magically disappear. It's not the halo over Joe Paterno's head.
Alright. I think I'm going golfing. I'll turn this blog into a part I/ part II. The second part will be an anti-Obama conceptual ad designed exclusively for my hero... Mittens Willard Romney. It could take some time to devise a strong anti-Obama theme. After all, how do you top that one of Romney competing on American Idol. Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain. Sure Mitt, that's my favorite song too!