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Santorum super PAC ad lumps says GOP rivals Gingrich, Romney have policies comparable to Obama
WASHINGTON (AP) ' TITLE: "Obama"
LENGTH: 30 seconds
AIRING: Cable and broadcast stations throughout Mississippi and Alabama
KEY IMAGES: This ad, which is sponsored by the Rick Santorum-friendly super PAC Red White and Blue Fund, features images of Santorum's two leading opponents, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, juxtaposed with images of President Barack Obama. As soft music plays in the background, a narrator talks over the images with block text amplifying key points.
"How can Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich beat Barack Obama when on the vital decisions they're not much different? Like Obama, Gingrich supported individual health insurance mandates and lobbied for Freddie Mac. Mitt created Romneycare, the blueprint for ObamaCare. And, just like Obama, Romney left Massachusetts $1 billion in debt."
The music becomes slightly more uplifting as the narrator asks, "Who can win?" Then images of Santorum flash on the screen.
"His bold plan will create jobs and cut spending," the narrator says. "Rick Santorum for president."
ANALYSIS: Rick Santorum's threadbare campaign operation can't afford the advertising barrage it needs to overtake front-runner Mitt Romney. Fortunately for the former Pennsylvania senator, a so-called super PAC backing his candidacy is picking up the slack as the race heads to a pair of states Santorum must succeed in if he wants to have any realistic shot at challenging Romney for the Republican presidential nomination.
This spot from the Red White and Blue Fund attacks the former Massachusetts governor and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in equal measure and along lines that will be familiar to observers of the unfolding GOP contest. On its specific claims, the ad is correct in parts but overstates its case.
As the ad states, Gingrich did back an individual health insurance mandate as recently as 2008. The ad's claim that Gingrich "lobbied" for Freddie Mac is not technically true. Gingrich has stated repeatedly that during his time at Freddie Mac he never worked as a lobbyist, and records show he never registered as one. By intonation, the ad also seems to claim that Obama lobbied for Freddie Mac, a false claim.
The ad's claims about Romney are also specious. As governor, Romney helped craft a statewide health care plan that Obama and others have said is the basis for a national plan Obama championed. But Romney has said he does not think his plan should have been used on a national level and routinely pledges to repeal Obama's health care plan if he is elected.
The claim about Romney leaving the state of Massachusetts in a $1 billion budget deficit is plainly false. That figure represents the high end of an estimate for a potential budget shortfall Romney aides gave to incoming Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat. The actual amount was nowhere near that estimate. What's more, it is actually impossible to run a budget deficit in Massachusetts ' state law requires a balanced budget each year ' and within his first year in office Patrick, like Romney before him, submitted a balanced budget.
By targeting both Romney and Gingrich, the ad shows some of the electoral calculus Santorum's supporters are weighing.
Romney is certainly not favored as the nominating contest heads south ' he lost all of the Southern states voting on Super Tuesday and was trounced in South Carolina earlier in the year ' but the presence of Gingrich, who represented Georgia in Congress for 20 years, means Santorum faces strong competition to be the Romney alternative. He could afford to ignore Gingrich when he was pushing himself as an alternative in Northern and Midwestern states, such as Michigan and Ohio, but it seems Santorum will not take that for granted in Mississippi and Alabama.
Lumping Romney and Gingrich together as candidates whose policies are too similar to Obama presses Santorum's overarching message, that he is the most conservative candidate in the race. But it's also an acknowledgement that Gingrich will be a formidable opponent in Southern states.