WASHINGTON -- J. Joe Ricketts, the billionaire behind an ultimately shelved plan to run $10 million in ads featuring inflammatory footage of President Barack Obama's former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is back and ready to spend the same amount of money, but with a gentler approach.
Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade and owner of the Chicago Cubs, is planning a $10 million campaign through his super PAC to persuade voters to pull the lever for Republican nominee Mitt Romney, according to the Wall Street Journal. The ads, as well as some longer videos online, are part of a new campaign by the Ending Spending Action Fund called "Why I Changed My Vote." They feature a number of individuals explaining why, having voted for Obama in 2008, they will vote for Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, in 2012.
In one video posted online, Lynne from Davenport, Iowa, says, "I was a strong Hillary supporter and then I became a strong Obama supporter and I voted for Obama in '08, but he's taking our country in totally the wrong direction. And if we want a better future for America, we need to vote for Mitt Romney."
Another video features former Democratic congressman-turned-Republican Artur Davis attacking the president on health care, the economy and leadership. In the disappointed tone so common in these types of ads, Davis states, "So many other Americans, perhaps 7 million of us, have left the Obama camp because the promise of America coming together has not been realized."
This shift away from the divisiveness of focusing on the controversial Rev. Wright and toward a more genial effort to convince voters who personally like Obama that it's fine to vote against him follows the script of other outside groups trying to help Republicans retake the White House.
Steven Law, president of the Karl Rove-founded groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, told the New York Times in March that focus groups showed that swing voters didn't want to be told how terrible the president is. "They are not interested in being told they made a horrible mistake," Law said. "The disappointment they're now experiencing has to be handled carefully."
The Crossroads groups have used this softer strategy throughout the summer, as has the social welfare nonprofit Americans for Prosperity, which is funded by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers.
The Wall Street Journal also reports that Ricketts will put another $2 million toward helping elect Republicans in the House and Senate.