Attack Ad Breakdown: “Too Much” by Crossroads GPS

It’s time for another review of an attack ad in this campaign. This time, it’s the latest from Crossroads GPS — the Karl Rove-run SuperPAC. If this ad is any indication, Rove, a former master of negative campaigning, is the political George Lucas and is entering the Prequels stage of his career.

When it comes to gas prices, President Obama has certainly tied the opposition in knots and this ad demonstrates every problem conservatives face in this election.

The twin purposes of the ad are to blame President Obama for rising gas prices and tout the GOP energy policy to expand domestic drilling. That shouldn’t be a problem — what did you say? Domestic drilling is up? Hmmm. This set up the following conversation between Karl Rove and a put-upon assistant —

Rove: Point out that domestic drilling is up because of the energy policies of President Bush.

Skippy: But, Obama could have reversed those policies and didn’t. Doesn’t he own those policies now?

Rove: But this helps us closely tie the GOP to the legacy of George W. Bush.

Skippy: [Starts preparing resume]

What the hell is Rove thinking? The ad could have just stuck with “production’s down where Obama is in charge.” This leaves the impression that Obama is really cutting back on drilling. Sure it would have been misleading, because just because drilling is not on “federal land” does not mean that government policies aren’t required to promote private exploration and production. But at least it would have avoided linking the party to someone with 46% negatives. I guess Bush is more popular than Romney so maybe that’s Rove’s plan.

It doesn’t even succeed in casting Obama as hogging the credit when Obama is telling everyone who will listen that he supported Bush’s domestic oil policies.

But it makes the case that all the great domestic production is not Obama’s idea. With gas prices at rock bottom and Obama was crowing about it, this is a great ad. Oh, no that’s not what’s happening is it? At least the ad is smart enough not to point out that gas prices are high, undermining its entire premise to this point.


The ad shifts to explaining that gas costs too much and I feel worse for Skippy.

Skippy: I thought we just said Bush instituted great policies that boosted production.

Rove: He did.

Skippy: But if we successfully implemented our energy plan, and just argued hard that we own it and not Obama, then why are we pointing out that it’s failed to keep gas prices down?

Rove: Because…Bush didn’t do…enough?

Skippy: [Pops horse tranquilizers for headache]

The ad concludes by saying that Obama should “Stop Blaming Others.” At no point in the ad is there any inkling that Obama is “blaming” anyone. If anything the ad is about Obama “taking credit” not “blaming.” When you make an ad, you’re making a short film, and ending the film with a statement entirely divorced from the rest of the narrative leaves you with a mess. It’s why Clerks didn’t actually end with Dante getting murdered.

Then the ad says Obama should work to pass better energy policies. Except the whole ad up to this point has been explaining that we have Bush administration energy policies. So Obama should do the opposite of the Bush/GOP policies?

The problem for conservatives is that they want to tag Obama with gas prices without alienating their energy industry buddies who want “domestic production” to become an accepted mantra. When Obama willingly owns the domestic production argument, a cagey operative would cut that argument loose and focus on gas prices and blame Obama’s Middle East policy. But Rove has become too entrenched. Unwilling to make the hard decision to throw the industry under the bus for the sake of the election.

Instead we get the “Attack Ad of the Clones.”

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