Mitt Romney’s jobs-focused message has proven effective thus far, helping him solidify his frontrunner position in the GOP primary while the other candidates are still caught up in the day-to-day chaos of the campaign. But it’s also among the more depressing campaigns in recent memory, relying on a constant stream of hard-times imagery ranging from foreclosed homes to unemployed workers (metaphorically) lying down in the road waiting to be run over. The latest campaign video, on joblessness in Chicago, is even timed to kill the mood at President Obama’s birthday party.
Is it a dark theme for dark times or just gratuitous misery? Either way, make sure you’re far from any sharp objects or ledges before you look at the following lowlights.
1. The Mall Of The Damned
Mitt’s trip last week to sunny California included a stop at abandoned shopping mall Valley Plaza in North Hollywood, where he blamed the weak economy for shutting down plans to develop the place. But locals traced the mall’s problems back much further — it was badly damaged in the 1994 Northridge quake then was hit by one of the most violent attempted robberies in American history in 1997. Not only that, the latest plan to develop the place was squashed when a max Romney donor foreclosed on the place. The company is now hoping to reverse the shopping center’s hard luck streak with a proposal of their own soon.
2. Bumps In The Road
Romney jumped on a comment by Obama about “bumps in the road” to recovery in order to accuse the White House of insensitivity to the unemployed. To hammer the point home, the campaign cut this disturbing web ad featuring struggling Americans lying down on a dusty Nevada road waiting to be run over by the oncoming economy. Romney undercut the ad’s dead-serious tone that week by joking that he’s also unemployed (with $200 million), but the video certainly is unsettling on its own merits.
3. Following Obama’s Trail Of Despair
Looking to showcase unemployment in Pennsylvania, the ex-governor spoke in front of a closed-down metal works factory in Allentown that Obama had visited in 2009. Former Governor Ed Rendell (D) slammed the move as a “cheap shot,” noting that Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was significantly better than the national average and that the stimulus saved a disproportionate number of steel jobs in particular. The appearance became best known for Romney’s odd quote that he had never said Obama made the recession “worse,” a claim that was the centerpiece of his campaign. He quickly walked it back. The event also produced another ultra-tragic web video, as seen below.
4. Motor City Blues
Mitt’s dad was the governor of Michigan, so what better place than Detroit to drive around in front of decaying empty houses with a camera? Jason Linkins, who dubbed the film “ruin porn,” noted at the time that if you keep your eyes peeled you can see Romney drive past the same photogenically burned home twice.
5. Romney Goes Retro
Not satisfied with merely producing his own batch of depressing ads, Romney also crafted a tribute to the greatest depressing ads of campaigns past. Last month he remixed Margaret Thatcher’s old “Labour Isn’t Working” slogan and its accompanying images of endless monochrome unemployment lines to go after Obama. He’s since affixed the bleak picture to numerous press releases and put it at the end of his web videos, like this one about how those fresh-faced graduates who voted for Obama can look forward to living with their parents forever.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.