My colleague Tricia McKinney highlighted this new Mitt Romney ad yesterday, but given its larger significance, let’s take another look at the commercial and note how it ties into the Republican campaign’s larger problems.
For those who can’t watch clips online, here’s the full script of the minute-long spot:
“Too many Americans are struggling to find work in today’s economy. Too many of those who are working are living paycheck to paycheck, trying to make falling incomes meet rising prices for food and gas. More Americans are living in poverty than when President Obama took office and 15 million more are on food stamps. President Obama and I both care about poor and middle-class families. The difference is my policies will make things better for them.
“We shouldn’t measure compassion by how many people are on welfare. We should measure compassion by how many people are able to get off welfare and get a good paying job. My plan will create 12 million new jobs over the next four years – helping lift families out of poverty and strengthening the middle class. I’m Mitt Romney and I approve this message because we can’t afford another four years like the last four years.”
The Democratic National Committee unveiled their own version of the same ad late yesterday, interspersing old Romney quotes with new ones.
Now, before we dig into the specifics of the message, it’s worth appreciating why this ad was made. After all, with 40 days until Election Day, and with early voting already getting started, chances are Mitt Romney does not want to take time and money to release ads that say, in effect, “No, really, despite what you’ve heard, I actually care about people. Believe me. Please.”
But the Republican doesn’t have much of a choice – the “47 percent” scandal was the worst possible story for Romney at the worst possible time, and if there were any doubts about the damage done by the controversy, this ad should make the truth clear.
Indeed, as Greg Sargent reported yesterday, this ad “will begin airing at full throttle in all of Romney’s media markets in nine swing states, and it will be the only Romney ad running in them.” This is, in other words, one major clean-up effort.
And then there’s the message of the ad itself, and the importance of one word in particular.
If you missed it, Garance Franke-Ruta raised an excellent observation.
It’s not the most polished video in the world. But you can see the thinking behind it. The candidate will directly address the voters, making a spare, authentic, heart-to-heart appeal that he cares about how “too many Americans” are suffering.
And then he says it. “President Obama and I both care about poor and middle-class families. The difference is my policies will make things better for them.”
Mitt Romney keeps talking about the people whose votes he needs as “them.”
In the 47 percent video, it was “those people.”
“I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” Romney said.
But presidential elections are always about the grand national us. They are about we, the people. And when it come to a candidate, they are about me and you.
Quite right. Even in a video in which Romney is speaking directly to the camera, trying to make an emotional connection with the middle class, he doesn’t say “you” when talking about working families; he says “them.”
It would have been easy – indeed, it would have been obvious – for Romney to say in the ad, “The difference is my policies will make things better for you.” But that would require Mr. Car Elevator to see himself as a man of the people. He doesn’t, and even in scripted ads, he doesn’t know how to pretend, either.
Mitt Romney is still very much stuck in the same mindset we saw in the video of the exclusive Boca fundraiser – “us” and “we” are reserved for country-club members who can pay $50,000 a plate; “they” and “them” are used to describe retirees, students, veterans, and those struggling to get by.
As much as anything any factor, this helps explain why Romney’s losing.