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Has political ad attacking Romney crossed the line?

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 7 2012 3:45 p.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Charles Dharapak, File, Associated Press

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SALT LAKE CITY — A new political attack ad appears to pull the death card in its siege on Mitt Romney, a move that has even some seasoned strategists saying the rhetoric of presidential politics has crossed a line.

And anti-Obama forces are ready to embark on a $25 million advertising campaign in 11 battleground states, where it will use President Barack Obama's own words against him to strike blows over the burgeoning national debt.

The advertisements show the growing influence of super PACs on both sides of the political landscape, which promise to help shape the remaining months of the presidential campaign in multimillion-dollar efforts to win the White House

The advertisement attacking Romney, rolled out by the Obama-backing super PAC Priorities USA Action, features a steel worker who says he had his plant closed by Romney and Bain Capital, he lost his health insurance, his wife contracted cancer and then she died.

“I do not think Mitt Romney realizes what he has done to anyone and, furthermore, I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned,” the worker, identified as Joe Soptic, says in the ad.

Soptic contends his wife “maybe didn’t say anything because she knew (they) couldn’t afford the insurance.”  She grew ill, he says, and died 22 days after an eventual trip to the hospital.

“I don’t think Mitt Romney understands what he’s done to people’s lives by closing the plant, I don’t think he realizes people’s lives completely changed,” Soptic says in the ad.

Charlie Luke of Salt Lake City-based Luke Strategies Inc. questioned the appropriateness of the ad in an interview Tuesday.

“Anytime you start bringing things up where you’re scaring people — either by trying to link someone’s death or safety and national security (referencing a recent anti-Obama attack ad) — you’re pushing the envelope of good taste,” Luke said. “What it shows me is this is the new direction of American political advertising.”

Luke, a Salt Lake City councilman, said the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in favor of independent political expenditures by corporations and unions opened the door to greater liberties in the advertisements.

“The ads we’re going to start seeing are going to try to tap into those very few undecided [voters] in very few states, so we’ll see more of this,” Luke said.

Thad Hall, University of Utah associate professor of political science, said the ad likely was the result of research with focus groups on what topics resonate best with undecided voters.

Hall said Romney’s involvement with Bain Capital has registered with a number of those people.

“If you think it’s unfair it’s because you’re a Romney supporter, if you think it’s great it’s because you’re an Obama supporter,” Hall said. “But they’re running it because it moves undecided voters.”

Romney spokesman Ryan Williams issued a response to Politico regarding the ad, suggesting it was a distraction from Obama’s economic record.

The pro-Romney forces are also at work in the advertising arena. The New York Times reports that Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party organization backed by David and Charles Koch, will begin airing advertisements in Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin during the next three weeks.

E-mail: aadams@ksl.com

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