AdWatch: Obama ad hammers Romney over his tax rate

Associated Press
President Barack Obama waves upon his arrival in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012,  (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)
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President Barack Obama waves upon his arrival in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012, (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)

WASHINGTON (AP) — TITLE: "Stretch"

LENGTH: 30 seconds.

AIRING: New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada.

KEY IMAGES: President Barack Obama walking along the colonnade at the White House. Next, ominous music plays over a male narrator's voice and a series of images of voters at work, in the grocery store and going over paperwork.

"You work hard, stretch every penny," the narrator says. Next is a picture of a smiling Mitt Romney that slowly tints a faded green. "But chances are you pay a higher tax rate than him: Mitt Romney made 20 million dollars in 2010, but paid only 14 percent in taxes — probably less than you."

Next is a picture of Romney sitting in what looks like a corporate boardroom, also tinting to a faded green, like the color of money. The narrator says: "Now he has a plan that will give millionaires another tax break and raises taxes on middle class families by up to $2,000 dollars a year. Mitt Romney's middle class tax increase: He pays less, you pay more."

ANALYSIS: This hard-hitting, negative ad from President Barack Obama's campaign is designed to pound voters with two ideas: that Mitt Romney is very wealthy and that his policies would only benefit rich people like him.

In doing so, Obama is reinforcing a theme present in much of his advertising. The campaign wants voters to believe that Obama understands the needs of everyday Americans, and that Romney does not. By tinting shots of Romney in the color of money, the ad seeks to convey that Romney overvalues wealth.

This ad's factual claims about Romney's personal taxes are accurate. Romney paid about 14 percent of his 2010 income in taxes. That's the only year for which he has released a complete tax return. That rate is lower than what many Americans pay because of the way tax law is structured. The vast majority of Romney's income was from capital gains and dividends, which are taxed at a lower rate than wages, the primary income for most people.

The second part of the ad is more contentious.

Romney's tax plan would cut tax rates for all taxpayers, including the wealthiest. But the contention that his plan — which Romney has not outlined in detail — would result in a higher tax burden for middle-class Americans is the conclusion of an outside group's analysis.

That group, the Tax Policy Center, is a joint venture of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. Romney's campaign has dismissed the analysis as liberal and partisan. However, earlier this year Romney's campaign cited the same group as offering an "objective, third-party analysis" when it delivered a negative assessment of the tax plan of then-GOP presidential hopeful Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

By focusing on taxes, Obama's campaign also keeps alive a lingering issue of the campaign: Romney's decision not to release more than two years of tax returns. He repeatedly has said he will only release his 2010 and 2011 tax returns; the latest tax filing is expected to be released later this year. Obama's campaign and some Republicans have said Romney should release even more of his returns.

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