Attack Ad Breakdown: Mitt Romney’s “America Is Drowning”

Mitt Romney has unveiled his new attack ad against Rick Santorum, and based on this ad, he should leave attack ads to his Super PAC buddies.

The commercial begins with a man literally drowning. Hurray for literal imagery! I guess it’s important that we all know that Mitt Romney is a big PJ Harvey fan. The drowning victim is a white guy in a suit carrying a briefcase, which is Mitt Romney’s metaphor for America, which should surprise no one at all. It’s not so much what image Romney chose as much as what he did not — he could have shown a whole family sinking, or a map of the country — but instead he picked a guy from his country club.

Romney follows with obligatory grainy footage of Santorum bragging about his earmarks. It is unclear how aggressive Santorum was in the earmark culture because he served prior to rules that force Senators to disclose their earmarking, but estimates suggest he was deeply involved in the practice. Santorum’s earmarks, mostly for defense, were mere drops in the bucket of the American budget, but I’m betting the commercial is going to disingenuously suggest that earmarks are the cause of the debt. Let’s keep watching and find out!

Now, when a candidate shifts to showing himself or herself in a commercial, they generally up the video quality. Romney’s director went a different direction and decided to go with an oddly soft-focused video with incredibly distracting lighting. I think the filter used is actually called “Skinemax.” It looks as though he’s trying to make the video look like a supporter captured it on a smartphone, but just when you start subconsciously accepting that conceit, the film cuts to a different angle. So…not a supporter video. Since the whole point of every directorial decision in this segment of the ad is to make you envision Romney speaking to supporters in a factory when it’s really 6 actors in a warehouse, there is no reason to engage in this much editing because it destroys the illusion.

Then we have the extreme closeup technique pioneered by noted filmmakers Wayne and Garth. There is just no excuse for this.

Romney received a lot of criticism for his recent stump speech where he just lists everything he can think of about Michigan. Well it’s not limited to off-the-cuff remarks because the commercial ends with an arbitrary collection of conservative imagery — Obamacare, Scared White Woman, Borrowing from China, Black-and-white family picture (who takes a picture over your shoulder of a couple walking behind you? No one is the correct answer).

What a jumbled mess.

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