A few months ago, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell appeared in an upbeat television ad to deliver a reassuring message: “Jobs and opportunity are thriving again,” he says, smiling. “Virginia is growing strong, and so is our future.”
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney pours cold water on McDonnell’s optimism in new ads his campaign just began airing.
“Here in Virginia,” a female narrator says, as a black-and-white photograph of Barack Obama is shown, “we’re not better off under President Obama.”
The mixed messaging shows the challenge Romney could face in battleground states such as Virginia and Ohio, where Republican governors want to highlight economic progress even as the party’s presidential candidate tries to make the case that Obama’s policies have stood in the way of growth.
McDonnell’s Opportunity Virginia political action committee aired the 30-second “Growing Strong” ad 467 times on TV stations across the state from April 25 to May 8, spending an estimated $172,870, according to New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, a firm that tracks advertising.
It begins with a woman saying, “Virginia is growing strong again.” Other people identified as residents of the state reiterate the message as positive economic statistics are displayed on the screen.
McDonnell, who can’t run for another term, supplemented the ad with a “Growing Strong” tour in May.
“While difficult economic times are not completely behind us, and Virginia will continue to face challenges on the road to recovery, the Commonwealth is showing significant signs that it is growing strong again,” McDonnell said in a statement at the time.
Romney’s downbeat ads include three Virginia spots that are part of a state-specific buy that began over the weekend. Each version opens with Romney addressing the Republican National Convention on Aug. 30 in Tampa, Florida. “This president cannot tell us that you are better off today than we he took office,” Romney says.
In each of the Virginia spots, a female narrator makes the not-better-off comment. Then, in two of the ads, which are focused on defense and families, she continues, “His defense cuts will weaken national security and threaten over 130,000 jobs.”
In a third ad, on energy, the narrator says, Obama’s “war on coal, gas and oil is crushing energy and manufacturing jobs.”
Each of the ads switch in the final 10 seconds to touting Romney’s plan, which the ads say includes creating more than 340,000 jobs for Virginia. That number is derived from an analysis of Romney’s economic plan conducted by Glenn Hubbard, his economic adviser.
Calls and e-mails to the Opportunity Virginia PAC’s political director weren’t immediately returned.
“Despite the positive economic progress Governor McDonnell and Lieutenant Governor Bolling have made, there’s only so much that can be done to offset the cascade of job-killing regulations and hostility toward job creators emanating from President Obama’s White House,” Curt Cashour, Romney’s Virginia spokesman, said in a statement. “The fact is that President Obama’s policies are inhibiting -- and in some cases blocking -- job creation in the Commonwealth.”
Bill Bolling is the Republican lieutenant governor of Virginia.
Virginia’s employment increased 1.3 percent between the 2009 first quarter -- during which Obama took office -- and the start of this year, the most recent data available in the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States. Personal income has risen 11 percent in the same period, BEES shows.
The economic health of Virginia -- like that of every state except North Dakota and Michigan -- has worsened between the first quarter of 2009 and the same period in 2012, according to BEES.