An independent group seeking to oust President Barack Obama launched a new TV ad Tuesday suggesting Obama had let down the voters who vaulted him into the White House in 2008. A pro-Obama group answered with an ad slamming Republican Mitt Romney, featuring a woman who lost her job at a factory that closed after it was bought by the private equity firm Romney co-founded.
The ads from the conservative-leaning group Crossroads GPS and the Obama-supporting Priorities USA Action are the latest volleys in an ongoing skirmish over Obama's management of the economy and Romney's business practices at Boston-based Bain Capital. But they also serve as a reminder of the freedom independent groups now have to set _ or amplify _ the terms of debate in a presidential campaign playing out against much looser campaign finance restrictions.
The new $10 million ad campaign by Crossroads GPS will air in 10 swing states, part of a $25 million ad buy the group announced last week.
Crossroads GPS and its affiliated super PAC, Crossroads USA, are among the biggest players in the universe of Republican-leaning independent groups born after a 2010 Supreme Court decision eased restrictions on campaign spending by corporations and wealthy individuals.
The Crossroads GPS ad, titled "Basketball," depicts a woman and her two children struggling with student loans and a weak job market. The woman says those difficulties have kept her from retiring and her children from moving out of the house.
"I supported President Obama because he spoke so beautifully. He promised change, but things changed for the worse," said the woman, who criticizes Obama's health care overhaul, his $800 billion economic stimulus program and growth of the federal debt since he took office.
The two Crossroads committees have ties to Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's longtime political director. Crossroads GPS was established as a nonprofit advocacy group rather than a political organization, so it does not have to disclose its donors.
The ad by Priorities USA, a super PAC founded by former Obama White House staffers, adds to the drumbeat of attacks from the president's re-election campaign and its supporters against Romney's tenure at Bain Capital. Democrats have sought to portray Romney, who made millions at Bain, as a ruthless corporate raider rather than the experienced businessman and job creator Romney has sought to portray himself as.
The ad focuses on American Pen & Paper, or Ampad, which laid off 250 workers at a factory in Marion, Ind., in 1994 shortly after it was bought by Bain. The factory eventually shut down completely.
Obama's re-election campaign released a Web video Monday showcasing Ampad's layoffs under Bain. The Priorities USA ad, meanwhile, focuses on one woman, identified as Loris Huffman, who said she was laid off from Ampad after 34 years.
"I was suddenly 60 years old. I had no health care. And that's scary," Huffman said. "When Mitt Romney did that, he made me sick."
The ad is as part of a five-state, $4 million ad buy Priorities USA Action announced last week.
Bill Burton, a former Obama aide and founder of Priorities USA Action, chided Crossroads GPS for using actors in its latest ad.
"They key feature of Karl Rove's ad is using actors to portray a fictional family. In our ads, we portray real life stories of Americans who were devastated by the decisions Mitt Romney made," Burton said.
The attacks on Bain Capital have not met unmitigated praise from Democrats.
Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat and Obama supporter, stoked controversy by telling NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that he found the anti-Bain ads and the negative campaigning by both sides "nauseating." He later tried to soften his statement, saying an examination of Romney's business record was fair game.