Democrats are up in arms over Mitt Romney’s first 2012 campaign commercial, arguing that the 60-second spot grossly decontextualizes comments made by President Obama.
The ad, which began airing in New Hampshire this week, uses a 2008 campaign clip of Obama saying: “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.”
The problem is that those weren’t actually Obama’s words. He was mocking a quote from a John McCain campaign aide. Here’s the full quote from Obama’s speech:
“Senator McCain’s campaign actually said, and I quote, ‘If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.’ “
Democrats are understandably upset by the ad — it is blatantly misleading. The Obama re-election campaign immediately denounced the commercial as “deceptive and dishonest,” and the DNC has been sending almost hourly emails hitting Romney for trying to dupe voters. Even White House Press Secretary Jay Carney got in on the action:
“Seriously? I mean, an ad in which they deliberately distort what the President said?” Carney said to reporters on Air Force One. “I mean, it’s a rather remarkable way to start, and an unfortunate way to start.”
Of course, this is exactly the reaction that the Romney team was hoping for. According to Politico’s Mike Allen, Romney’s senior advisors appeared to be relishing the general election-style fight in the spin room after last night’s debate.
“They should probably order some more defibrillators for the Obama reelection committee, because their reaction was quite hysterical,” Romney senior advisor Eric Fehrnstrom told reporters. “No one CAUGHT us doing this. We TOLD you what we were doing.”
Romney media strategist Stuart Stevens added: “To have a total of meltdown today where you take one ad that’s on one station in New Hampshire: You had the Press Secretary of the President of the United States talking about it. The whole global issues, and they’re worried about one ad in New Hampshire. It’s pretty extraordinary. These guys’re gonna have to settle down. They’re going to have to start getting defibrillators over there at some sort of wholesale price. It seems that everybody who works in the White House can’t imagine someone’s actually gonna run against ’em.”
These arguments might hold water if this were a straightforward attack ad. But it is perfectly reasonable for the Obama team to defend itself from patently false claims, no matter how early it is in the election cycle.
This is a dangerous game for Romney, whose greatest weakness as a candidate is the perception that he is an inconsistent flipflopper. By playing dirty right of the gates, Romney risks solidifying his reputation as a deceptive politician willing to say or do whatever it takes to get elected.
Democrats aren’t letting the opportunity go to waste. The DNC released a new web video today, “Deceive America,” mashing up clips of cable news pundits slamming Romney for being dishonest, “sleazy,” and worse. Here’s the video:
And here’s Romney’s original ad:
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