Mitt Romney Hits the Scene with His First General Election Ad

The Romney campaign is out with its first ad, a positive spot that highlights Keystone, health care, and tax cuts. The aim of the ad is to show Americans what President Romney would do in his first day of office, and to that end, it gets the job done, even if it’s mostly paint by numbers:

Create jobs? Check. Repeal unpopular legislation? Check. Promise tax cuts? Check. It isn’t as blatantly dishonest as a significant amount of what comes from the Romney campaign, but it is misleading on two counts. First, experts are divided on how many jobs the Keystone pipeline would create. From the ad, the implication is that this would make a significant dent in our joblessness rate—otherwise, why would it concern the president? In the past, Romney has claimed that the pipeline would yield “tens of thousands of jobs,” but the independent estimate is that constructing the pipeline would result in five to six thousand jobs. That’s enough work to support a town, or even a small city, but not so much that it would effect the national economy.

The second count is more a sin of omission; for all the talk of “repeal and replace,” the Republican Party doesn’t actually have a plan to deal with the 30 million Americans who will lose insurance as a result of ending the Affordable Care Act. Congressional Republicans say they will reinstate the popular aspects of the bill—helping people with pre-existing conditions and bolstering Medicare benefits—but as Jonathan Bernstein points out, those policies are unworkable without the individual mandate, Medicare cuts, or new taxes. It wouldn’t be the first time Republicans took a “dessert-first” approach to public policy (see: the Bush administration), but it cuts directly against the GOP’s vocal concern with deficits.

There’s nothing misleading about Romney’s promise to cut taxes for “job creators,” as long as you understand that the term is a synonym for rich people. According to the Tax Policy Center, the Romney economic plan—as it currently exists—would give top earners an average tax cut of nearly $400,000. The next highest earners—those with an income of $500,000 to $1,000,000—would receive an average tax cut of roughly $75,000. By contrast, the median household, which has an income of nearly $50,000, would receive an average cut of $1,600.

To put all of this in plain terms, Romney would use his first day in office to create a handful of jobs, end health care coverage for millions of people, and give massive tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. It’s a lot of work for the first day, though I wouldn’t call it good.

Of course, what actually matters is how voters react, and I imagine that the ad will serve its purpose. If you—like most people—haven’t been paying attention to politics over the last year, you would think that President Obama has purposefully kept jobs from the United States, raised taxes on “job creators,” and passed a terrible, ineffective health care bill. And while you don’t know too much about Mitt Romney, he seems competent and concerned with the economy.

This is the impression Obama has to fight if he wants to win re-election in November, and while there are many avenues for attacking Romney, Obama’s middling position means that this will be a difficult undertaking.