Election 2012
9:01 pm
Sun November 6, 2011

In Ads, Candidates Turn Up Heat On Romney

Originally published on Mon November 7, 2011 8:50 am

While the controversy surrounding Herman Cain has dominated the news, the presidential candidates continue to attack one another in videos and paid TV ads. The candidate most under attack from all sides: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

A group called Americans for Herman Cain, which backs the former Godfather's Pizza CEO's candidacy, put together a video late last week referring to the charges of sexual harassment against Cain and comparing them to charges leveled against Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings to the Supreme Court 20 years ago. The video ends with the words "Don't let the left do it again."

Americans for Herman Cain also sent out a fundraising appeal to Cain's supporters, asking them for money to fight back. That's no coincidence, says Ken Goldstein, president of Kantar Media CMAG, which tracks political advertising.

"These early ads now aren't so much targeted at voters, but targeted at people who are going to give money," he said.

Cain isn't the only candidate whose supporters are running Internet videos now. There's one from a group called Priorities USA Action, which backs President Obama. It begins with clips of GOP pundit Karl Rove boldly predicting that Obama won't be re-elected. It then pivots to present the scary-to-Democrats alternative, Romney.

Why are Obama supporters aiming now, before the Republicans have even begun selecting their nominee, at Romney?

"Advertising is a tell; advertising is an indicator clearly the Obama campaign and clearly his allies think that Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican nominee, and they want to get to work sooner rather than later defining him and sooner rather than later defining him in a way that can raise them money," Goldstein said.

Not only is Romney being pilloried by Democrats for his economic views — he's also a target of the right.

One ad from Texas Gov. Rick Perry uses Romney's own words against him.

But while Perry has targeted a negative video at Romney, he's also running an ad on TV in Iowa and other early voting states, in which the Texas governor stands before a plain backdrop, with no tie and all smiles.

"If you're looking for a slick politician or a guy with great teleprompter skills, we already have that, and he's destroying our economy," he says. "I'm a doer not a talker."

Perry's ad seems to address his much-criticized performance in several debates.

Peter Fenn, who produces ads for Democratic candidates, thinks it's a savvy move.

"The first job right now of Perry with his paid advertising is in a sense to reintroduce himself to the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina," he said. "That straight to camera, just speaking straight up, is probably a wise political decision for Perry."

One thing none of the candidates has done yet, is go after Cain, who still leads the Republican race in many polls. If he continues to do so, however, that's likely only a matter of time.

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Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep, good morning.

Presidential campaigns and independent groups have been raising millions of dollars, and they're spending some of that money, now, defending themselves or slamming each other. Some of their ads are on TV, others on the Web.

MONTAGNE: Herman Cain faces the most intense attention now. In responding to sexual harassment charges, Cain has blamed rival Republican campaigns, even as his ads blame the left.

That's just one of the videos NPR's Brian Naylor found when he turned his attention to the screen.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: First, let's listen to part of an ad that was produced by a group that backs Herman Cain's candidacy, called Americans for Herman Cain. It quickly put together this video late last week, referring to the charges of sexual harassment against Cain and comparing them to charges leveled against Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings to the Supreme Court 20 years ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF A POLITICAL AD)

HERMAN CAIN: This is a circus. It's a national disgrace. It is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks .

NAYLOR: The video ends with the words quote, "Don't let the left do it again."

Americans for Herman Cain has also sent out a fundraising appeal to Cain supporters, asking them for money to fight back. That's no coincidence, says Ken Goldstein, president of Kantar Media CMAG, which tracks political advertising.

KEN GOLDSTEIN: These early ads, now, aren't so much targeted at voters but targeted at people who are going to give money.

NAYLOR: Cain isn't the only candidate whose supporters are running Internet videos now. There's this one from a group called Priorities USA Action, which backs President Obama. It begins with clips of GOP pundit Karl Rove boldly predicting President Obama won't be re-elected, it then pivots to present the scary-to-Democrats alternative, Republican Mitt Romney.

(SOUNDBITE OF A POLITICAL AD)

MITT ROMNEY: Corporations are people.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: No they're not.

: Of course, they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people. Where do you think it goes?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Upper income Wall Street they're with Romney.

: Don't try to stop the foreclosure process, let it hit the bottom. Let Detroit go bankrupt. Bankrupt.

NAYLOR: Why are Obama supporters aiming now, before the Republicans have even begun selecting their nominee, at Mitt Romney? Again, Ken Goldstein.

GOLDSTEIN: Advertising is a tell. Advertising is an indicator. Clearly, the Obama campaign and clearly, his allies think that Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican nominee and they want to get to work sooner, rather than later defining him. And sooner, rather than later, defining him in a way that can raise them money, to use later in the campaign to define him among wider groups of people.

NAYLOR: Not only is Romney being pilloried by Democrats for his economic views, he's also a target of the right. Here's a video from Republican Rick Perry using Romney's own words against him.

(SOUNDBITE OF A POLITICAL AD)

: I know that we didn't all agree on TARP. I happen to believe it was necessary to prevent a cascade of bank collapses. Well, it was the right thing to do. There are a lot of reasons not to elect me.

NAYLOR: But while Perry has targeted a negative video at Mitt Romney, he's also running an ad on TV in Iowa and other early voting states, in which the Texas governor stands before a plain backdrop, no tie and all smiles.

(SOUNDBITE OF A POLITICAL AD)

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: If you're looking for a slick politician or a guy with great teleprompter skills, we already have that and he's destroying our economy. I'm a doer not a talker.

NAYLOR: Perry's ad seems to address his much criticized performance in several debates.

Peter Fenn, who produces ads for Democratic candidates, thinks it's a savvy move.

PETER FENN: The first job, right now, of Perry, with his paid advertising, is, in a sense, to re-introduce himself to the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina. That straight to camera, just speaking straight up, is probably a wise political decision for Perry.

NAYLOR: One thing none of the candidates has done yet, is go after Herman Cain, who still leads the Republican race in many polls. If he continues to do so, however, that's likely only a matter of time.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.