(NEW YORK) — After a somewhat anticlimactic start to the Republican National Convention because of weather delays, Mitt Romney and his Boston-based power team hit the ground Tuesday in Tampa, Fla., and are ready to make up for lost time.
In a rare public appearance together, Romney senior advisers Eric Fehrnstrom and Beth Myers, director of advertising Ashley O’Connor and pollster Neil Newhouse sat down together for an ABC News-Yahoo News! Breakfast, revealing what Mitt Romney really thinks about the ad wars and which blue states might, surprisingly, swing red.
The ad war waging in this year’s campaign has been expensive, brutal and, it turns out, irritating to the Republican nominee. When asked what ad most “got under his skin,” the answer was unequivocally “Understands,” an Obama-friendly super PAC ad that implicates Romney for the death of a man’s cancer-stricken wife.
“It was so over-the-top and just so blatantly false,” Myers said. “And they continued to put dollars behind it. They have put a quarter-million dollars behind that ad so don’t believe the baloney about, ‘Oh, we’re not airing the ad.’”
O’Connor said she thought their ad “Right Choice” attacking Obama on welfare reform has been the most effective so far, despite its being given “Four Pinnochios” by a Washington Post fact check.
Newhouse brushed off the fact check as par for the course in political campaigns.
“People are always going to get Pinocchios for this stuff,” Newhouse said. “We stand behind those ads and behind the facts in those ads.”
Newhouse suggested the problem was with the fact-checkers, not the facts themselves: “Fact-checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs and you know what? We’re not going let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”
Romney’s team made clear they intend to subsidize the ad war with earned media (publicity through editorial influence), campaigning and messaging in the battlegrounds. The column of battleground states, however, is expanding.
“[Obama] is basically playing defense,” Fehrnstrom said. “Every state that’s up for grabs is a state that he won four years ago. He hasn’t expanded the playing field to any red state. We’re playing in blue states right now.”
Myers said, “We’re on an offense in states that they didn’t think they’d have to defend.”
Romney’s team highlighted Wisconsin, Michigan and Missouri as “toss up” states they feel confident they can take, but it won’t be easy.
“It’s going to be tough battle,” Fehrnstrom said. “It’s going down to the last day.”
History and statistics suggest Fehrnstrom is probably right. Perhaps the single-most accurate predictor of which candidate will win the presidential race, the Gallup tracking poll 100 days out, recently showed Obama and Romney locked in a dead heat.
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