The Obama campaign is launching a new ad in the seven key swing states that directly takes on Mitt Romney’s “are you better off” question:

It’s a minute-long spot, which suggests this represents a major effort by the campaign to frame the choice on Obama’s terms as we enter the final portion of the race, at a time when Obama seems to have taken a small but significant lead in national polls and key swing states. With many expecting Obama’s post-convention bounce to subside, this seems like an effort to consolidate whatever gains he’s made into something longer term.

The ad suggests the Obama campaign knows the “are you better off” question has to be tackled — it even shows Mitt Romney himself asking it — and tries to do so by contrasting the free-falling economy that Obama inherited with the most recent 20 months of private sector job growth. But the ad also is a bid to reframe the race in a forward-looking way. It contrasts Romney’s plans for tax cuts that would enormously benefit the rich and deregulation of the banks that cratered the economy with Obama’s promise of more investments in the middle class, more emphasis on clean energy (a bid to make the election about the future), and tax hikes for the rich to help pay for it and for bringing down the deficit (a bid for independents and college educated swing voters)..

Yesterday I predicted that the Obama team would pivot hard into a message like the one in the new ad, and spelled out what is driving the Obama campaign’s thinking about its messaging and about what the polls may be telling us about Romney’s theory of the race. All of that is even more relevant in light of today’s ad.

According to four recent national polls, Romney has lost his advantage on who is better trusted on the economy. Meanwhile, polls from CNN and Fox News this week suggested that far more voters still blame Bush and Republicans for the current economy and that many voters are taking a more mixed view than simply grading Obama a failure when it comes to the pace of the recovery. So the crux of the issue, again, is whether Romney is proving wrong in his calculation that undecided voters can be persuaded that Obama resoundingly failed in the numbers he needs. If so, they can perhaps be persuaded to see the race on the terms spelled out in the new ad.

The use of Clinton in the new ad is also interesting: As noted here recently, the Obama campaign believes that true undecided voters see Clinton as a kind of “referee” figure on the economy — hence the ad’s back-to-back footage of Clinton and Obama both making the case that electing a Republican president would take us back to the policies that got us into trouble in the first place. Clinton will play a major role in trying to get swing voters to feel that things are indeed recovering.


UPDATE: We now have a fifth national poll showing Romney’s advantage on the economy has evaporated.