Ad Watch: Spot claims Romney win is voters' loss

April 18, 2012 - 6:37 PM
Romney 2012

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney shakes hands with supporters during a campaign stop in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, April 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

WASHINGTON (AP) — TITLE: "World View."

LENGTH: 30 seconds.

AIRING: On broadcast stations in Florida, Iowa, Ohio and Virginia.

KEY IMAGES: There's just one image in the TV spot by Priorities USA Action, an independent group supporting President Barack Obama's re-election bid: Mitt Romney and his former business partners joshing for the camera with $20 bills in their hands, busting out of their pockets and clenched between their teeth. That black-and-white photograph from 1985 was taken when Romney was at Bain Capital, an investment firm that made Romney very wealthy.

"He made a fortune from the businesses he helped destroy," one caption reads. "Romney pays a federal tax rate far lower than that faced by many middle class wage earners," announces another headline.

"Wealthy would cash in under Romney's tax plan," another caption declares, while an announcer says Romney's plan would be "cutting Medicare and education."

The camera zooms in and out on a grinning Romney and his former business partners who are mugging for the camera.

"If he wins, we lose," says the final text.

ANALYSIS: The independent, though Obama-supporting, Priorities USA Action is telegraphing plans to cast Romney as a privileged millionaire who doesn't understand the challenges facing families. The dark ad, with ominous warnings to middle-class voters that a Romney administration would strip seniors of their checks and students of their educations, is a clear sign of what Democrats view as the likely GOP nominee's greatest weakness.

The ad doesn't give a complete picture, however.

Yes, Bain Capital reaped tremendous profits during Romney's time there and some businesses were shuttered. Romney's role was as a numbers guy at the top of the company who OK'd analysts' advice to invest in struggling companies ranging from picture frame makers to brake pad manufacturers. Along the way, Bain turned around those companies' financial outlooks and made them attractive for other investors.

At times, factories were closed to prepare their parent companies for resale and companies were left with high levels of debt that later proved debilitating and led to other shutdowns.

The charge that Romney was a corporate raider has vexed his team since he first ran for the Senate in 1994 against incumbent Edward M. Kennedy. It still fuels the image of Romney as a wealthy executive out of touch with average Americans.

The suggestion that Romney was personally attempting to destroy businesses for his own profit is a stretch, given his political ambition and worries that deals would haunt him in future runs.

Romney, who filed for an extension on his 2011 taxes, as he has in past years, was expected to pay a rate that is lower than most wage earners because his income comes mostly from investments that are treated more favorably under tax laws than earned income.

Democrats have unsuccessfully sought to change the tax code to make wealthier individuals pay higher rates on such investments. President Barack Obama has campaigned hard for what he calls "the Buffett Rule," named after investor Warren Buffett, who objects to paying a lower tax rate on his investment income than his secretary pays on her salary. The Senate rejected Obama's plan this week.

The ad also dings Romney's tax plan. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has estimated that the richest Americans would see their tax bills drop if Romney were to eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax and were successful in extending Bush-era tax cuts. The top 1 percent of wage earners would see an average tax cut of $150,000 — roughly equal to a 7.8 percent cut in their rates, the think tank found.

The claims on Medicare and education are both based on Romney's endorsement of a House GOP budget plan. It's unlikely to be approved because of opposition in the Democratic-controlled Senate.