A powerful and effective Romney campaign TV ad that began airing Tuesday is drawing heavy fire from the Obama camp and ad analysts and serves as a good example of how voters (and the truth) get stretched in major campaigns.
The ad, called "Right Choice," slams Obama for wanting to pitch federal welfare-to-work rules enacted in 1996 and return to old-style welfare under which "they just send you your welfare check." The ad says Romney as president will restore work requirements.
Tuesday, both campaigns held national press calls with Romney advisors supporting the claim and the Obama camp calling it "completely false."
Wednesday, Obama for America released an online video,"Dubious," that refers to the ad and cites media analyses questioning its claims.
NBC News, for example, called the ad "dubious;" the Washington Post said the administration's proposal would not end work requirements. And the Obama video calls Romney "flexible: on welfare and the truth."
Fox News reports an Associated Press "adWatch" that says the administration is not seeking to repeal welfare-to-work but looking to give states the chance to make changes to their welfare programs and "still be counted as meeting work participation requirements. It's a leap to assume that governors and legislators will seek to return to `plain old welfare.'
The problem, of course, is far more people will see the Romney ad than will read (or believe) AP, NBC or Washington Post analyses of it.
The power of images - in this case a stream of white, working-class folks on the job while viewers hear about ending work requirements for welfare -- far outweighs the words of complex government regulations about allowing states certain waivers in complying with federal law.
Also, the AP says the Romney camp won't say where its ad is running. But a story in Wednesday's New York Times about new polling in key swing states offers a pretty strong hint.
"Mr. Obama’s goal is to keep Mr. Romney from running up huge margins among white working-class voters — defined as those without college degrees and with household incomes of $30,000 to $100,000 — who could give him the edge," the story says.
I suspect the Romney camp keeps running the ad and pushing its message regardless of what the administration, the Obama camp or anyone else says about it.
As a result, voters (and the truth) get stretched. Because in politics, it's often better to be effective than it is to be right.