Based on three recent GOP ads — including two produced by the firm run by Larry McCarthy, the mind behind the 1988 Willie Horton spot — babies are the new swing voters du jour. Just kidding! They are, however, part of a daring and (dare we say it) desperate strategy by Republicans to whittle down President Obama's lead among women voters. First, there's the jogging mom who works out to forget about her jobless husband and how "the future is getting worse" under Obama (who she voted for) before the camera pans to her existentially frightened young daughter. Then there's the new Restore Our Future ad, which reminds newish mothers that their 2008 newborns are now in kindergarten and on track to unemployment. The ad ends, naturally, with a photo of a haunted-looking five-year-old.
Two weeks ago, the Romney campaign put out an ad titled "Dear Daughter." A mother reads to her daughter — from the Wall Street Journal editorial pages, jokes the Times — about how her "share of Obama's debt is $50,000." How can any mother vote for Obama when her innocent child is already weighed down with more debt than the average college graduate? At least that's the question Republicans hope soccer moms, hockey moms, chess moms, theater moms, and slacker moms start asking themselves.
Republican strategists believe they have found a damning message in the baby ads — one that indirectly raises the question "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"
But some Republicans cautioned that without answering what logically flows from that question — will you be better off four years from now? — they will not break through.
"People know they’re in a hole," said [Alex] Castellanos, the Republican advertising consultant. "What they want is to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. They don’t want you to throw the baby in the tunnel."
Of course, while Obama (version 2008) offered hope at the end of that dark, spooky tunnel, Romney has yet to provide anything other than the promise of more manipulative ads.