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Mitt Romney's First Direct-To-Camera Ad Comes At Make-Or-Break Moment In Campaign

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Mitt Romney speaks to the camera in a campaign TV ad, the first one put out by his campaign where he engages directly with the viewer. (YouTube)
Mitt Romney speaks to the camera in a campaign TV ad, the first one put out by his campaign where he engages directly with the viewer. (YouTube)

Mitt Romney's campaign released an ad on Wednesday showing the Republican nominee talking, for the first time in any of his television spots, directly to the camera.

It's the kind of personal and direct approach that some in the press, such as Politico's Maggie Haberman, have been wondering why Romney didn't use much earlier in the campaign. And as Haberman notes on her blog, the decision to wait until this late in the campaign to do a direct-to-camera ad gets at the tension within the Romney campaign over the question of how to handle its candidate's infamous problems connecting with voters.

The Romney campaign spent most of the spring and summer insisting the election was all about President Barack Obama and his record, while the Obama campaign spent the summer tearing Romney down personally and painting him as a secretive, nefarious corporate raider.

One of the biggest questions of the presidential election now, with not much more than a month to go, is whether Romney can win back undecided voters who may have been open to voting for him but who have been turned off by a negative impression of who he is personally.

A poll by Quinnipiac for The New York Times and CBS News, out Wednesday morning, had some brutal numbers for Romney in states he must win, like Florida, and in states where a loss would make it very difficult to win, like Ohio. The Quinnipiac survey showed Obama up nine points over Romney in Florida and up 10 in Ohio, where both Romney and Obama are campaigning on Wednesday.

Those numbers may be outliers, as Politico's Alex Burns notes, but they are still evident of a very concerning trend for Romney. As one influential Iowa Republican insider put it to The Huffington Post on Tuesday, it feels like the race is "slipping away."

Romney's campaign is putting a lot of hope in his ability to do well in his three debates with the president. The first of those is next Wednesday, in Denver.

Romney's ad seeks to solve a problem that his campaign has been late in addressing: he is perceived to be lacking in empathy, and he has not explained how his policies will help those Americans still trying to make it out of poverty or out of a "paycheck to paycheck" middle-class lifestyle into something resembling financial security.

Watch the ad:


Full script:

“Too many Americans are struggling to find work in today’s economy. Too many of those who are working are living paycheck to paycheck, trying to make falling incomes meet rising prices for food and gas. More Americans are living in poverty than when President Obama took office and 15 million more are on food stamps. President Obama and I both care about poor and middle-class families. The difference is my policies will make things better for them. We shouldn’t measure compassion by how many people are on welfare. We should measure compassion by how many people are able to get off welfare and get a good paying job. My plan will create 12 million new jobs over the next four years -- helping lift families out of poverty and strengthening the middle class. I’m Mitt Romney and I approve this message because we can’t afford another four years like the last four years.”

UPDATE: Greg Sargent at the Washington Post reports that Romney's new ad will air in all of his media markets across nine battleground states:

A Democrat familiar with ad buy information tells me that starting Friday, the new ad the Romney campaign rolled out today will begin airing in all of Romney’s media markets in nine swing states, and it will be the only Romney ad running in them.

This underscores that the Romney campaign is betting all of its chips on the new approach represented in the minute-long ad, which is about cleaning up the mess made by Romney’s remarks about the freeloading 47 percent, and about reframing the Romney message as a forward looking one. The Dem source says ad buy info indicates that other currently running spots -- one hits Obama as soft on China; the other is a positive ad touting Romney’s plan for the middle class -- will be replaced by this one.

The Democratic National Committee issued a web video Wednesday in response to Romney's ad, contrasting his on-camera appeal with clips of past statements that contributed to his "out of touch" image, including his line about firing people, the infamous $10,000 bet during a GOP primary debate and footage from the "47 percent" secret fundraiser. At the end of the video, the DNC amends Romney's slogan to "Believe in half of America."

Sabrina Siddiqui contributed reporting.

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