Anti-Obama ads ignore drop in jobless rate

The unemployment rate might have dropped below 8 percent, but voters won’t be learning about it from new campaign ads. 

The conservative super-PAC Restore Our Future on Tuesday expanded an ad in three swing states that cites the jobless rate as “over 8 percent” and suggests it has become the “new normal” under President Obama. 

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Another anti-Obama super-PAC, American Crossroads, is still running a separate ad that quotes the unemployment rate at above the critical 8 percent threshold, despite the Labor Department’s report on Friday that it had dropped to 7.8 percent.

The Restore Our Future ad, titled “New Normal,” will air in the battlegrounds of Iowa, Virginia and Florida after debuting in Wisconsin last week. The group said it was putting $6.3 million behind the ad, a major expansion from an initial $1.2 million buy.

“Welcome to the new normal, where over 8 percent unemployment is ‘doing fine’ and millions of Americans have simply given up,” a narrator intones at the beginning of the commercial. In small type under the graphic, the ad cites a Bureau of Labor Statistics report from June.

Restore Our Future was created by former aides to Mitt Romney and is backing the Republican nominee’s presidential bid, although it cannot legally coordinate with his campaign.

A spokeswoman for the group, Brittany Gross, defended the ad. “It’s not misleading at all because we don’t say the unemployment rate is over 8 percent,” she said. “We say, ‘Where over 8 percent unemployment is “doing fine,” ’ which is where it was when Obama said it.”

The American Crossroads ad, titled “Actually Happened,” continued to run in the Washington, D.C., market that covers Northern Virginia after the release of the job report Friday. It includes an even more explicit mention of the unemployment rate, as an actor points to a chart highlighting the difference between the jobless rate in September of 8.1 percent and the 5.6 percent rate that the Obama administration had initially projected it would be now if Congress enacted his stimulus plan.

Neither the Obama campaign nor American Crossroads responded to requests for comment. 

The lack of an immediate outcry from Democrats underscores how the dynamic of the presidential race has changed little, even as the sharp one-month drop in the jobless rate marked the first time it has fallen below 8 percent since the beginning of Obama’s term. While voters’ outlook on the economy has brightened in the last month, according to surveys, the Obama campaign made no overt push to trumpet the positive employment report on the airwaves. 

The president in recent days has made more headlines criticizing Romney over “Sesame Street” than he has discussing the economy.

The campaign released an ad within 24 hours in response to Romney’s performance during the first debate last week, but it did not do so in reaction to the employment news.

“That would not look good,” said Tobe Berkovitz, a former Democratic political operative who is now a professor of advertising at Boston University. “Democrats are sort of in a box in that yes, things are better, but you can’t get too boastful about it because that’s going to stick in the craw of a lot of the public.”

Republicans, meanwhile, have continued to press their argument that the economic recovery is the slowest in history, and Obama’s policies are to blame. 

On the stump, Romney had long used the 43 consecutive months with an unemployment rate above 8 percent as a key talking point. In his speeches since Friday, he has modified the line only slightly.

And his backers are in no rush to change campaign ads that remain on the air.

“My guess is the Republicans are more than willing to let everybody fight about 7.8 percent versus 8 percent, neither of which is good,” Berkovitz said. “Does anyone want to say things are looking good? No. What you have is Democrats saying it’s turning around.”

Still, Berkovitz said Republicans should “tread gingerly” to avoid giving ammunition to the Democratic charge that the GOP is rooting for economic failure and talking down the economy.

“It’s a tricky path for both of these sides,” he said.

— Updated at 8:21 p.m.