In his first official ad of the presidential election campaign, the presumptive Republican candidate seeks to remould his image
Mitt Romney has not had the easiest time of it. A brutal and bruising GOP primary campaign has finally left him in pole position as the presumptive nominee. But it has also left him “severely conservative” (to use his own words) and battling a common public image as an uncaring capitalist robber baron who likes to fire people for kicks. So how does one launch one’s national campaign? With a massive rebranding effort, of course.
Day One is the first ad from the Romney camp since former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum dropped out and thus represents Romney’s first real attempt to sell himself to the whole nation, not just potential Republican caucus/primary voters. As a result, the 30-second TV spot is a rare beast: a positive ad designed to inspire and make you feel good about His Mittness’ vision of America.
The ad is going up in the next few days. Its positive nature is aimed at reflecting the fact that it is an official campaign ad, unlike some of the nastiness that so often emerges from Super Pac ads. In a week where Romney-supporting groups apparently toyed with playing the race card by emphasising President Barack Obama’s former pastor Rev Jeremiah Wright, this Romney ad is all about being Mr Nice Guy.
As usual, this ad is targeted at some key 2012 battlegrounds. The campaign has bought air time in Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Iowa. All these states are in the centre or the centre-right of the battleground. That means this ad seems to be aimed at shoring up Romney support or going after soft right independents.
Welcome to the world that exists inside Romney’s head when he lies down to go to sleep at night. “What would a Romney presidency be like?” the ad ponders as it opens with footage of a beaming, craggy-jawed Romney looking distinctly presidential. The voiceover man is not one of those gravelly-sounding gentleman from attack ads who sound like they also do trailers for slasher films. He sounds pleasant and reassuring, almost in a kindly father figure sort of way.
Then, to a jaunty soundtrack, the ad proceeds to answer its own question. “Day one: President Romney immediately approves the Keystone pipeline creating thousands of jobs that Obama blocked,” it announces. It goes on: “President Romney introduces tax cuts and reforms that reward job creators.” That really is meaningless boilerplate but it plays over images of hardworking business folk, a combine harvester in a vast field of grain and then – slightly incongruously – an attractive young black woman who gives the camera a sly smile.
Finally it tackles healthcare reform in yet another sign that the Romney camp is confident that Obama’s biggest single domestic achievement is in fact a winner for the Republicans. “President Romney issues orders to begin replacing Obamacare with common sense healthcare reform. That’s what a Romney presidency will be like.” No mention there that Obamacare was inspired by Romney’s own efforts at healthcare reform in Massachusetts.
But it always bears repeating: no one looks to political ads for truth or fairness. That’s not their point. Instead one should be noting the repeated use of the words “President Romney” and “Romney presidency” and the use of the words “will be like” not “would/could be like”. At a time when there is a growing “nasty Mitt” meme in American public opinion this ad is a dose of pure sugar aimed at reassuring people Romney is a decent all-American type of politician. It aims to slay the image of Ogre Mitt and replace it with Saccharine Mitt.