WASHINGTON — TITLE: "Say What"
LENGTH: 30 seconds.
AIRING: On broadcast and cable in Michigan.
KEY IMAGES: Against a black screen, a series of claims about Mitt Romney flash across in stark white text. As they appear, each one is punctuated by a sound akin to a prison cell door slamming shut. There are no other sounds or images, except of Rick Santorum end saying he approve the message. The claims are all backed up by citations:
— "I don't line up with the National Rifle Association (NRA)" - Mitt Romney. Source: The Boston Globe.
— "I will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose." - Mitt Romney. Source: Debate, Suffolk University.
— "Romney also professed support for state funding of abortions for low income women." Source: The Boston Globe.
— "Romney Advisor Admits Romneycare was Blueprint for Obamacare." Source: RushLimbaugh.com.
— "Under Romney fees and taxes increased more than $700 million a year." Source: Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation
— "As Governor, Romney requested millions in U.S. earmarks." Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
— "I'd be embarrassed if I didn't ask for federal dollars every chance I had." - Mitt Romney. Source: Washington Post
ANALYSIS: Santorum's campaign takes the direct approach by using Romney's own words against him in an ad released days before Michigan's GOP presidential primary on Tuesday. The spot stands out for its stylistic choices. It's effectively a silent film; no narration, just dramatic sound effects designed to get the viewer's attention.
But as content goes, it's fairly standard attack-ad fare. Citing a variety of media, the ad seeks to chip away at Romney's conservative credentials, mostly by highlighting the former Massachusetts governor's past comments.
Romney did say he doesn't line up with the National Rifle Association. He did support abortion rights in previous runs for office, though never as a presidential candidate. A Romney adviser also did say the health care plan Romney put in place in Massachusetts was the basis for the national plan President Barack Obama signed into law nearly two years ago.
But two of Santorum's claims are questionable.
Fees and taxes did increase under Romney's leadership in Massachusetts. But Romney, for the most part, fought off tax increases while in office. He advocated a reduction in income taxes, which won him plaudits from anti-tax groups. He did raise business taxes by $140 million and approved millions of dollars in new fees and fines, which makes Santorum's claim technically true but not the whole story.
As governor and in his tenure running the 2002 Olympics in Utah, Romney did seek earmarks, or targeted spending, from Congress. But Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator who secured millions of dollars in earmarks for his states and who defended the practice during a recent GOP debate, is hardly untarnished on this issue. Romney and Santorum both have said they would seek to end the practice of earmarks if elected.
Santorum's decision to air his second negative Romney ad reflects the reality of the race in Michigan. Santorum, who had led in many polls in the state, has begun to see his lead shrink and is fighting back. If he's to continue to build on momentum from recent victories in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, he will have to defeat Romney in Michigan. Romney's supporters have spent millions on ads attacking Santorum's record.