The Bain of Mitt: How an $83,000 ad buy made Mitt Romney turn tail and run

Years ago, I attended campaign training sessions. One of those sessions focused on a campaign's need for media and how to meet that need. It was divided into two categories: earned media and paid media. Earned media are interviews, news reports, letters to the editor - things that mention your candidate in the media that you don't have to pay for. The other is of course paid for - i.e. campaign ads. By bringing the hammer down on Romney's Bain record, Barack Obama's campaign just multiplied its investment in paid media several times over through earned media.
The Obama campaign says the full two-minute spot — dubbed “Steel” — will air just once in targeted markets during the evening news on Wednesday.

Independent media trackers tell ABC News the buy is roughly $83,000 — a tiny amount compared to the multimillion dollar recent ad buys by pro-GOP super PACs and the Obama campaign’s $25 million blitz initiated last week.
That's right. An $83,00 ad buy has everyone in the political world buzzing about it, and the Republican machine and right wing media completely spooked and beside themselves. And that's before it airs even once; it's scheduled to air in battleground states, once, tonight.

Lest you think it wasn't planned exactly this way,
An Obama campaign official writes to underscore that the attack on Romney’s record at Bain was designed as a multi-media offensive, not limited to TV, and includes a significant online advertising component on YouTube, Facebook and Google search.
The ad - with all the play it got in the earned media market - is also now driving people to RomneyEconomics.com, where people can learn about more of Romney's vulture capitalist record, spread that information through their networks, and convince others. Social media is multiplying the impact, and it's not showing signs of stopping.

Now, a lot of pundits and politicos are still debating whether or not this ad will be effective, whether it will alienate people who spend all their days moving money around from Obama (as opposed their real helpful and cooperative postures these past three years), etc. etc. But it is already working. The goal of this ad was to tear up Romney's self-proclaimed job creation claims primarily through his work at Bain. The Obama campaign is already succeeding at that. In fact, it's succeeding so much that Mitt Romney won't even talk about his private sector "job creation" record anymore.
Vice President Joe Biden heads to Ohio today, where he'll take sharp swings at Romney's experience with Bain, painting him as job-killer who tacked debt onto struggling companies.

Romney didn't use a rally in St. Petersburg, Fla., this morning to respond.

He delivered a 22-minute standard stump speech and didn't make a single mention of it. He didn't even repeat his standard line about knowing how the economy works and how to create jobs because of his time in the private sector.
This was the ad campaign's main goal. Take from Romney his biggest perceived strength - that of a private businessman - by exposing the truth about his private sector experience. And lo and behold, it worked.

Of course Mitt Romney doesn't want to talk about it. First, Mitt Romney doesn't want his record exposed (too late). Second, the more people talk about it, the more he is seen as an entitled, cold hearted money making machine that doesn't give a damn about anyone else's jobs. They can try to debate theories of capitalism (which also falls apart to scrutiny), but even if they can win that argument, they still leave people feeling like they're calculating, aloof robots.

I suspect that all the Obama campaign wanted to do really was to get people talking about Bain's business model and their record under Romney, even if part of the talk was about Obama "attacking capitalism." They knew full well that drilling into that subject would hurt Mitt Romney far more than it could brand Obama.

This isn't the first time the Obama campaign has outsmarted their opponents and dragged them into a conversation damaging for them and helpful for him, of course. Think back to the beginning of this month, when the campaign challenged Mitt Romney's stated policy positions with respect to killing Osama bin Laden. That was another instance in which they pointed out the truth, and simultaneously dragged the opposition into constantly talking about how President Obama gave the order to kill bin Laden.

Not that it's a new campaign strategy. Campaigns try to do this all the time - drag their opponents and the media into a subject matter the discussion of which helps them and hurts their opponents. The only distinction the Obama campaign has is that it does so with the help of the truth and with ruthless effectiveness, again and again.