The Fact Checker: Campaign Ads

Did Gov. Romney ‘find a way’ to succeed where President Obama struggled?

“Most Americans believe we’re heading in the wrong direction: higher deficits, chronic unemployment, a president who admits he can’t work with Congress. But he says he’s only had four years. That’s all Mitt Romney needed. He turned Massachusetts around, cut unemployment, turned the deficit he inherited into a rainy day fund, all with an 85 percent Democratic legislature. Some can’t live up to their promises. Others find a way.”

-- Narration from Mitt Romney campaign ad

This ad, titled “Find a Way,” compares the four-year terms of President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, who served as governor of Massachusetts from January 2003 until January 2007. It suggests the GOP candidate succeeded where his opponent supposedly failed: in preventing chronic unemployment, higher deficits and partisan gridlock.

The ad also quotes the president saying in a recent interview, “You can’t change Washington from the inside,” which suggests that Obama hasn’t lived up to his 2008 slogans of “change” and “yes we can.”

It’s interesting that the campaign video ignored Romney’s signature accomplishment as governor: overhauling the Bay State’s health-care system. Perhaps that’s because Democrats ended up using it as the model for the federal Affordable Care Act.

Regardless, let’s examine the two candidates’ records to determine whether the claims in this ad are correct. It’s a well-established fact that deficits grew under Obama and unemployment has remained stubbornly high. But did Romney truly cut the jobless rate in Massachusetts and turn a deficit into a rainy day fund, all while working with members of the opposite party?

The Facts

Unemployment

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Massachusetts had an average unemployment rate of 5.3 percent in 2002, the year before Romney took office. The rate dipped to 4.8 percent during his final year as governor, which supports the notion unemployment fell during his tenure. Still, it is hard to credit all those jobs to Romney; a state is obviously affected by broader economic trends.

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Romney’s official stance on abortion

“Trying to mislead us? That’s wrong. But banning all abortions? Only if you vote for him.”

— Narration from Barack Obama campaign ad, referring to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney engaged in an ad war last week with President Obama, with both sides trying to define the GOP challenger’s stance on abortion. The exchange was no surprise considering that recent polls show Romney closing the gap among women. A USA Today/Gallup poll last week had the Republican virtually tied with his opponent among female likely voters.

Romney’s ad features a woman concluding that, contrary to what the Obama campaign has said, the GOP candidate doesn’t oppose contraceptives or abortion in cases of rape and incest. The president’s team shot back with an ad that shows Romney saying during a 2007 Republican primary debate that he would be “delighted” to sign a bill banning all abortions.

Romney’s abortion positions involved some well-documented twists and turns over the years, but we wondered how accurately the Obama ad depicts his current stance. Let’s take a look at the GOP candidate’s record and examine the full context of his 2007 debate comments.

The Facts

Former Fact Checker columnist Michael Dobbs created a detailed list back in 2007 that details Mitt Romney’s flip-flops on the abortion issue. There is no doubt that the Republican’s stance has evolved.

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Would ‘Romney’s budget’ slash Medicaid’s nursing-home support?

“It’s one of the hardest decisions a family can make: Realizing a nursing home is the only choice. For many middle class families, Medicaid is the only way to afford the care. But as governor, Mitt Romney raised nursing home fees eight times. Mitt Romney’s budget cuts Medicaid by one-third and burdens families with the cost of nursing home care.”

-- Narration from President Obama campaign ad

The Obama campaign last week released this ad suggesting GOP challenger Mitt Romney would slash Medicaid funding and leave families with greater costs for nursing-home care. It also claims that the Republican candidate raised fees on nursing homes while serving as governor of Massachusetts, as though this is evidence of his attitude toward the elderly in need.

Let’s examine Romney’s Medicaid proposals and find out what he did to those nursing-home fees to determine whether this ad is misleading viewers.

The Facts

To start, let’s quickly distinguish between Medicare and Medicaid. Both are federal entitlement programs, but Medicare provides healthcare benefits to seniors while Medicaid does the same for the poor, the disabled, and in some cases the elderly — it provides benefits including highly expensive nursing-home care for about six million seniors.

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Romney’s ad on manufacturing dominance and ‘China’s cheating’

“Under Obama, we’ve lost over half a million manufacturing jobs. And for the first time, China is beating us. Seven times, Obama could have stopped China’s cheating; seven times, he refused.”

— Narration from Romney campaign ad

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney focused much of his attention last week on manufacturing jobs and President Obama’s trade policy toward China. His campaign released an ad suggesting that U.S. manufacturing as a share of global output has shriveled in comparison with that of its Asian trading partner. The video also said the current administration has refused to stop China’s cheating.

Let’s take a look at the facts to determine whether those claims are true.

The Facts

The Romney campaign ad features a pair of bar graphs supposedly representing U.S. vs. Chinese shares of world manufacturing during Obama’s tenure in the White House. The illustrations suggest a giant shift in output between the two nations since the president took office in 2009.

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Is Romney’s Massachusetts record really as bad as Obama says?

“When Mitt Romney was governor, Massachusetts was Number One: Number One in state debt — $18 billion in debt, more debt per person than any other state in the country. At the same time, Massachusetts fell to 47th in job creation — one of the worst economic records in the country. First in debt, 47th in job creation: that’s Romney economics.”

-- Narration from President Obama campaign ad

President Obama’s campaign team has hammered Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts record for the past few weeks in an effort to dispel any notion that the GOP presidential candidate has proven his chops when it comes to job creation and financial stewardship — areas opponents argue that the president is weak.

Let’s see how Massachusetts fared while Romney was governor from 2003 until 2007. Did the state really distinguish itself with such unflattering numbers?

The Facts

It’s ironic that the Obama campaign would criticize Romney for adding state debt when under his presidency the national debt has reached the greatest level as a percentage of the gross domestic product since World War II. (See Office of Management and Budget historical tables, Table 7.1)

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