Mitt Romney tried to use his first television advertisement of his 2012 campaign to draw a stark contrast with President Obama, but the ad’s misleading use of Obama’s words drew an immediate retort from the president’s re-election campaign Monday night and threatened to undercut Romney’s message.
The Romney ad uses footage of a campaign stop Obama made in New Hampshire on Oct. 16, 2008, where he was mocking the quote of an aide to John McCain, his 2008 GOP opponent. But the Romney ad shows Obama uttering that line, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose,” without noting that Obama was quoting the words of a McCain strategist.
This drew an immediate response from Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt, who called Romney’s ad “a deceitful and dishonest attack.”
Romney aides defended the use of the quote in its 60-second ad, calling it “intentional.” The campaign acknowledged that Obama was quoting a McCain adviser in a news release to reporters and in an e-mail to supporters sent Monday night, although the ad itself does not make that clear.
“Now, the tables have turned,” Romney campaign communications director Gail Gitcho said in a statement. “President Obama and his campaign are doing exactly what candidate Obama criticized. President Obama and his team don’t want to talk about the economy and have tried to distract voters from his abysmal economic record.”
Romney unveiled the 60-second spot Monday night on Fox News, and the commercial is scheduled to begin airing Tuesday on New Hampshire’s WMUR. The ad was designed to offer a cinematic preview of what a general election might look like should Romney secure the Republican presidential nomination.
The ad draws a sharp contrast between Romney and President Obama, declaring that Obama has “failed” in office with what it calls record home foreclosures and record national debt. It uses footage of Obama’s 2008 campaign stop in which he said: “I am confident that we can steer ourselves out of this crisis.”
Then the ad pivots to Romney, with gauzy shots of blue skies and cheering supporters, saying he would make government more efficient, repeal Obama’s health-care law and bring fiscal responsibility to Washington. Romney aides said the ad is designed to hold Obama accountable for the promises he made as a candidate.
But the spot, which previews the lines of attack Romney would pursue if he becomes the GOP nominee, also underscores the extent to which Romney is looking past his Republican rivals and spoiling for a general election battle. The Romney campaign e-mailed the ad to its supporters Monday night with the subject line: “Game on.”
In an interview with Fox’s Sean Hannity, where he debuted the ad, Romney kept his focus almost exclusively on Obama. Romney called Obama “a rigid ideologue” and asserted that “his policies are bankrupt,” although he stopped short of labeling the president a socialist, as Hannity did.
“You can’t divide America,” Romney said. “We have to come together. All the streets are connected in America. We’ve got to encourage Main Street and Wall Street and the suburban streets and the urban streets. We’ve got to come together as a people.”
“When President Obama was Candidate Obama, he campaigned with a message of unity and change,” Romney continued. “He just hasn’t delivered. He’s done the exact opposite of what he promised in the campaign.”
Romney said Obama was “excusing his failure to lead by attacking other people.”
“One of his advisers said their strategy would be to ‘Kill Romney,’” Romney said. “That’s not a very exciting phrase to me … He can’t talk about his record and get re-elected. So what he’ll do is try and assassinate – on a character basis – his opponent. I’m hoping that’s me, but I’m not looking forward to those attacks.”
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