Seminole Wind restaurant owner Thomas Bryant, left, and Florida State Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, center, share a laugh with Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as he arrives at a lunch stop at the restaurant in Tallahassee, Fla. , Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)(AP Photo/Phil Sears)
In Mitt Romney's latest ad, he is a salesman on the sly. Or, maybe not so sly. The ad's title is "Leader," which tells us nothing. The visuals include home movies of the candidate frolicking with his family. They are, given the fact that the footage comes from film, old home movies. As in: the Mitt Romney you know is the same guy he's always been.
The audio is a cut from the CNBC debate in October in which Romney responded to the question of whether he's a serial flip-flopper by noting how he's been married to the same woman for 25--whoops, 42--years, has gone to the same church and was with one company for 25 years.
Except that, in the context of a race against Newt Gingrich, the ad works by inviting a comparison:
How many wives has Newt Gingrich had?
How many churches has Newt Gingrich belonged to?
How many different companies has Gingrich worked for (or profited from?)
The ad is a way for Romney to get Iowans to focus on Newt Gingrich's long baggage trail.
And Romney has plausible deniability too. If anyone accuses the campaign of going after Gingrich's personal life, the campaign will say that the ad is simply a positive biographical spot, a way of humanizing their candidate.
But remember: ads are agitprop, according to the Romney folks. So look for the subtext. And it's as clear as a bell in this ad.