WASHINGTON – TITLE: Basketball
LENGTH: 60 seconds (A 30-second version also is airing.)
AIRING: Network affiliates in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, considered swing states.
KEY IMAGES: This ad from Crossroads GPS, a group with ties to Republican political strategist Karl Rove, uses actors to evoke a potent mix of middle-class hopes and fears. It opens with a heartening suburban scene of a brother and sister shooting basketball in the driveway of their home.
Looking on from the kitchen is mom, who doubles as the narrator. "I always loved watching the kids play basketball," she says. She still does, even though things have changed.
As the background music turns somber and urgent, mom morphs from a young woman into middle age, and the kids into young adults. They can't find jobs, she can't afford to retire, and they're all living together again.
Mom supported President Barack Obama in 2008 "because he spoke so beautifully" but "things changed ... for the worse."
The ad goes on to deplore mounting federal debt, blame the new health care law for raising premiums and criticize the economic stimulus for waste. News headlines flash on the screen to underscore each point. "Now Obama wants more spending and taxes," says the narrator. "That won't fix things."
The ad ends by urging viewers to tell Obama he's got to change and back policies supported by Republicans.
ANALYSIS: The ad is aimed at women voters and independents, two overlapping constituencies whose support Obama desperately needs. No husband or father figure appears in the ad, not even in family pictures, suggesting that mom is her family's sole support. The ad underscores some of the main criticisms of Obama's economic record by Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Crossroads GPS is the sister group of American Crossroads, a super PAC raising millions to elect Republicans. This ad follows a commercial last week from the same group, attacking Obama for what it said are string of broken promises to help average Americans. Crossroads GPS is spending $9.7 million on the new ad, which will run for three weeks.
The claim that government debt has ballooned since Obama took office is technically accurate, but it leaves out a huge part of the story.
The national debt was $10.62 trillion the day Obama took office in January 2009. Today, it is $15.71 trillion, according to the Treasury Department's Bureau of Public Debt. It has increased by $5.09 trillion under Obama. It went up $4.90 trillion under his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.
Much of the increase under Obama is due to anti-recessionary stimulus and bailout programs under both Bush and Obama, as well as the Bush-era tax cuts, which have been extended until the end of 2012 by bipartisan votes in Congress. Add to that the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The worst economic recession since the Great Depression reduced tax revenues, led to increased spending for safety-net programs and prompted massive infusions of government stimulus to keep things from getting worse. While some of the stimulus money was wasted, most economists say the effort created jobs.
Some headlines that flash by in the ad probably need an asterisk or two. One says, "Survey: Health insurance costs surge in 2011," while the narrator blames the new health care law for making premiums more expensive. Actually, Kaiser Family Foundation analysts who prepared the survey in question said the health care law was only responsible for between 1 and 2 percentage points of a 9 percent increase.
Another headline says "Stimulus program fraught with waste, report says." What it doesn't mention is the 2009 report came from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a leading stimulus opponent. A White House spokesman acknowledged some of the problems Coburn identified and said they were being addressed.
Associated Press writer Tom Raum contributed to this report.