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Rick Santorum's new machine-gun ad: Will it work? (+video)

Rick Santorum is not going to sit back and wait for Mitt Romney to come after him. He’s going to take some preemptive punches – like with his new machine gun-toting Romney ad.

By Staff writer / February 15, 2012

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum gestures while addressing the crowd at a rally on Tuesday in Boise, Idaho.

Charlie Litchfield, Press-Tribune/AP

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Rick Santorum’s got a tough new ad out that depicts Mitt Romney as a machine-gun toting twit. Will it help Mr. Santorum withstand negative attacks from the Romney campaign in the crucial upcoming Michigan primary?

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The “Rombo” spot is about 30 seconds long and starkly simple. It shows a cackling Romney look-alike darting around a parking garage, firing mud from an automatic mud weapon at a cardboard cutout of Santorum.

“Romney and his super PAC have spent a staggering $20 million brutally attacking fellow Republicans,” says the ad narrator. “Why? Because Romney’s trying to hide from his big-government RomneyCare, and his support for job-killing cap-and-trade.”

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At this point the gun jams – not surprising, it’s firing dirt slurry – and spits out a splotch onto fake Romney’s white shirt.

“In the end, Mitt Romney’s ugly attacks will backfire,” the ad concludes.

One thing that goes unmentioned is that the Santorum target never gets hit. Romney fires and fires, yet the visage of the ex-Pennsylvania Senator stays as pure as Newt Gingrich’s self-image. Clever!

OK, we’ve got this to say about the ad: if nothing else, it’s a mud shot across Romney’s bow. Santorum is not going to sit on his poll lead in Michigan and wait for Romney to come after him. He’s going to take some preemptive punches.

But the message here is just a little bit opaque. A casual viewer might think, “What’s going on here? Why is Mitt Romney smiling? Guns?”

The obligatory “I’m Rick Santorum, and I approve this message” is actually at the beginning of the ad, at least as seen on the web. Is this to make sure viewers know the point of the thing, and that it’s not a Romney ad of some kind? That was our impression.

Santorum’s further problem may be that he’s bringing a dirt gun to a tank fight. Sure, he’s risen in the polls, and he’s even ahead in Michigan, where Romney grew up and his dad was governor. But Romney’s got enough cash to blanket the airwaves of Detroit, Lansing, and Grand Rapids with his own message.

Politico reports today that the Romney campaign is devoting at least $1.3 million of its hard-money resources to the purchase of Michigan airtime prior to the state’s Feb. 28 vote. The pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future undoubtedly will spend millions more.

On the campaign trail Romney’s already double-flipping, hitting back at the Santorum spot that’s hitting Romney for hitting Santorum. (Or is that triple-flipping?)

“That is the nature of politics, which is that you always accuse the other guy of doing what you’ve done yourself,” said Romney in a Wednesday morning Fox News appearance.

As to the natty Romney double in the ad, real Romney had this to say: “The guy looked pretty good, didn’t he?”

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