Mitt Romney Ad Twists Obama's Words -- and It Works

Quote Taken Out of Context, but Spot Shifts Conversation to Obama-Romney Battle

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Mitt Romney pulls a blatant fast one with the first TV ad of his presidential campaign -- and the fib is probably working from a branding standpoint. It's no wonder regular people -- including general-market ad professionals -- have a low opinion of political ads.

Romney's 60-second spot, running on WMUR in New Hampshire, includes a 2008 clip of then-candidate candidate Barack Obama saying, "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose." The message Romney wants New Hampshire-ites to get: Obama's trying to distract us from what matters.

Only problem? Obama was quoting John McCain. The clip was taken from the closing days of the 2008 campaign, when McCain was flailing and his advisers wanted to change the subject from the economic panic that was dragging their candidate down. Here's what Obama actually said: "Senator McCain's campaign actually said, and I quote, 'If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.'"

So Romney's ad is a pretty clear distortion. Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker, for one, lamented that it's not being covered that way in most mainstream news coverage.

But here's the bottom line: Romney's already won this particular messaging war, and the fib helped him do it. He's trying to brand himself as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, someone who can ignore his GOP rivals (like the surging-in-the-polls Newt Gingrich) and just focus on Obama. The predictable sniping today between his camp and Obama's has elevated him and accomplished just what the deception was supposed to.

UPDATE: What would it look like if someone did the same thing to Mitt Romney? Well, something like this.

UPDATE 2: Another entry in the "See how you like it category" comes from BuzzFeed. A lesson for candidates: Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

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