After Successful Convention, GOP Focuses Its Deep Pockets on Obama's Record
Now that the balloons have dropped, the polls have bounced and the country has recovered from Clint Eastwood's surprise visit, what's next for the Mitt Romney campaign's ad messaging? More Barack bashing.
"I don't think you'll see a big shift," said Ashley O'Connor, ad director for the Mitt Romney campaign during at interview in Tampa, Fla. The plan was to "continue to let everybody in America know and understand Barack Obama's record."
Ms. O'Connor would not say if the campaign planned any national broadcast buys to complement the ad battles being waged in swing states. Both Team Obama and the John McCain campaign made national broadcast buys in 2008. It would seem a natural move for a Republican team flush with cash, but political camps are also reluctant to tip their hands ahead of tactical ad buys.
At some point during the week, an update was pushed to the Mitt's VP smartphone app, created by a digital team led by Zac Moffatt with the help of WPP's Rockfish. What started as a way to alert supporters to Mr. Romney's pick of a vice-presidential candidate is now a fully fledged tool designed to motivate and activate supporters.
For the Republicans, the convention was seen as a success. While the speeches of Ann Romney and Chris Christie may not have delivered on the high expectations set for them, both were solid efforts. And Wednesday night's duo of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and VP nominee Paul Ryan galvanized the crowd. Mr. Ryan's lawyerly fudging of a GM plant closure -- which he seemed to lay at Mr. Obama's feet despite the plant closing before the president took office -- did distract from the Republican's party Thursday as the media gave it a full day of play. But the surprise appearance of Clint Eastwood -- as painful as the vaudeville act was to watch at times -- and a solid performance by Mr. Romney himself seemed to get the Republican's train back on track.
TV ratings for the convention were a mixed bag. Compared to last year's Sarah Palin speech, the VP's evening was down 41% this year from 37.2 million in 2008, according to Nielsen. Mr. Romney's night, on the other hand, saw 30.3 million viewers, no doubt helped by the promise of Mr. Eastwood (who incidentally generated the most tweets per minute out of all the RNC speakers, at 16,193, according to BlueFin Labs). Mr. Obama's speech last presidential-election cycle garnered 38 million viewers, the highest rated convention in history.
One of the key undercurrents of the convention was a reaction to the Democratic narrative that the Republicans are waging a war on women. Aside from the traditional speech by the presumptive first lady, there were Mia Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah; New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez; South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley; and, of course, Ms. Rice.
But don't expect a barrage of ads targeting so-called women's issues. "Reaching women is incredibly important," said Ms. O'Connor, "but you don't need women-specific ads." And while the Democratic Party is "very much trying to create this idea that there's a war on women ... it's not paying attention to women voters," whose primary concern is the economy, she said.
One issue prevalent in this election cycle is the massive amount of super-PAC money flowing into the advertising ecosystem. Here, too, the Republicans have an advantage in terms of money. But it was a misstep by Democratic super PAC Priorities USA that highlights the potential challenges with that . While the parties can't legally coordinate with the groups or control the message, when a Priorities USA ad insinuated Mitt Romney and Bain Capital gave a woman cancer and killed her, it was the Obama campaign that took the brunt of the blame.
Earlier this year, rumors surfaced that a GOP super PAC was thinking of hiring maverick political adman Fred Davis and making an issue of Jeremiah Wright, the firebrand minister who Mr. Obama distanced himself from in 2008. The effort never materialized, however.
And during the conventions, both last week and next, members of affiliated super PACs and parties will intermingle to such an extent that the rules barring coordination will seem all but meaningless.
Still, when it comes to advertising, both Republicans and Democrats insist there is no coordination regarding media buys or messaging.
"It's out of our control," said Ms. O'Connor, regarding the super PACs. "Is it exactly the message I want? No. Is it exactly the execution I would like? Not all the time." But, she added, "for the most part, they've had a do-no-harm approach."