'Day One': What Mitt Romney's new ad really tells us

Mitt Romney's first TV ad of the general election bypasses the usual personal narrative to give us his agenda for Day 1 in office: the Keystone pipeline, tax reform, and replacing 'Obamacare.'

Mitt Romney, man of action.

That’s the message of his briskly paced first ad of the general election campaign, called “Day One.” In just 30 seconds, we learn everything the presumed Republican presidential nominee would do on his first day in the Oval Office: Approve the job-creating Keystone Pipeline project, cut and reform taxes, and replace “Obamacare” with “common-sense health-care reform.”

Congressional approval? No mention of that, though a campaign ad isn’t a civics lessons. This is about conveying a sense to voters that Mr. Romney will roll up his sleeves and get to work just as soon as he’s said “so help me God.” The details don’t matter.

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According to the Associated Press, the Romney campaign is spending $1.3 million to air the ad in Iowa, North Carolina, Virginia, and Ohio, all battleground states. The campaign also produced a Spanish-language version.

Team Romney’s decision to focus its debut general-election ad on the candidate’s Day 1 agenda and not on his personal narrative is telling. Usually candidates begin with a positive message about themselves, and Romney is facing a wide likability gap with the president. With President Obama and Vice President Biden slamming Romney for his years as a venture capitalist at Bain Capital, Romney could have started the process with a bit of personal narrative.

The “dog on car” story is getting old, and the Washington Post’s deep dive into his high school years – including a story about him bullying a fellow student – has provided a window into Romney’s elite upbringing. But there just isn’t much else out there about Romney the person. Now, analysts suggest, what he needs to do is fill in his biography and let voters know what he’s really all about.  

“The decisions presidents must make are often not just about policy or even political calculations,” writes Susan Milligan of US News & World Report. “Some of them come straight from the gut (such as, do I send in the Navy SEALs to attempt to take out Osama bin Laden?). Some of them are rooted more in a person's own value system and character. It's a big job with a lot of responsibility and power. We can't help wanting to know who these candidates are, and what makes them tick.”

To be sure, there’s plenty of time for Romney to tell us who he is. The campaign is just starting. But for now, he’s telling us what he wants to do.

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