Obama for President, “Steel”

  • Ad Title: “Steel”
  • Ad Sponsor: Obama For America (OFA)
  • Issue of Focus: Romney’s History at Bain Capital
  • Type of Advertisement: Negative
  • Broadcast Locations: Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado
  • Length: 2 minutes
  • Date of Airing: Advertisement aired on television only on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 (Posted on YouTube May 14, 2012)
  • Web Address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWiSFwZJXwE

Transcript of “Steel”:

(Transcribed by Michael Steudeman)

Joe Soptic [Steelworker, 30 years]: I was a steelworker for thirty years. We had a reputation for quality products. It was something that was American made. And we weren’t rich, but I was able to put my daughter through college.

John Wiseman [Steelworker, 28 years]: Having a good-paying job that you can support and raise a family on is hugely important. That stopped with the sale of the plant to Bain Capital.

Mitt Romney: I know how business works, I know why jobs come and why they go.

David Foster [Lead negotiator for workers at GST Steel]: Bain capital was the majority owner; they were responsible. Mitt Romney was deeply involved in the influence that he exercised over these companies.

Soptic: They made as much money off of it as they could; and they closed it down. They filed for bankruptcy without any concern for the families or the communities.

Jack Cobb [Steelworker, 31 years]: It was like a vampire. They came in and sucked the life out of us.

Soptic: It was like watching an old friend bleed to death.

Romney: As I look around at the millions of Americans without work, it breaks my heart.

Wiseman: Bain capital sought elimination of the pension plan and termination of employee and retiree life insurance and health insurance.

Soptic: I was devastated; it makes me angry. Those guys were all rich. They all had more money than they’ll ever spend, yet they didn’t have the money to take care of the very people that made the money for them.

Wiseman: Bain capital walked away with a lot of money that they made off of this plant. We view Mitt Romney as a job destroyer.

Cobb: To get up on national TV and brag about making jobs when he has destroyed thousands of people’s careers, lifetimes… just destroying people.

Soptic: He’s running for president, and if he’s going to run the country the way he ran our business… I wouldn’t want him there. He’s so out of touch with the average person in this country. How could you care? How could you care for the average working person if you feel that way?

Barack Obama: I’m Barack Obama and I approve this message.

Analysis of “Steel”

Michael Steudeman (University of Maryland)

Ad Context

The “Steel” advertisement by Obama for America was an early attack advertisement in the general election campaign. [1] This advertisement can be read against two contexts. The first is the decline in public support for major corporations and banks; the second is the emphasis placed on unemployment in the economy. Polling data from Gallup indicates a steady decline in public support for “big business” since 2001; in its most recent polls, only 30 percent of Americans have “satisfaction with the size and power/influence of… major corporations.” [2] Financial industries like banking continue to have a suffering reputation since 2008; the number of respondents to claim a positive opinion of banks dropped by 28 percent between August of 2011 and 2012. [3] Finally, the biggest economic concern facing Americans continues to be unemployment: 28 percent view the creation of more and better jobs as the most important way to improve the economy, in reaction to an adjusted unemployment rate of 8.1 percent. [4] To this end, the Obama campaign has taken several moves that indicate an effort to undermine Romney’s credibility on economic issues. Repeatedly, Romney has been urged to release his tax records and clarify ambiguities about when he retired from his private equity firm, Bain Capital. [5] The central argument advanced by the Obama campaign tethers Romney to the prevailing low opinion of corporate executives by suggesting he has something to hide.

Of all his experiences, Mitt Romney’s background as the executive of Bain Capital figures most prominently into his argument that he can repair the United States economy. As a businessman, Romney claimed in speeches throughout his primary campaign, he is uniquely poised to confront the “Great Recession” in ways that Barack Obama has been unable to. [6] This position, however, has been subject to challenges both in the primary and general election campaign. In 2008, John McCain challenged Romney’s argument about job creation at Bain to undermine his top rival’s claims to business success. [7] During the run-up to the 2011 primaries, Newt Gingrich similarly attacked Romney’s record on Bain, quipping in reaction to an attack from Romney: “If Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he’s earned bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain, then I would be happy to at least listen to him.” [8] Since Romney became the presumptive Republican nominee, Barack Obama has similarly targeted Bain Capital—even personally defending attack advertisements on the topic. [9]

The “Steel” advertisement from OFA is part of a larger campaign that can be found at the web site RomneyEconomics.com. The overall campaign attacks Romney’s business background at Bain as well as his economic record as Governor of Massachusetts. Much like an extended Obama advertisement from 2008 describing John McCain’s links to the Charles Keating savings and loan scandal, “Steel” and related videos purport to reveal the truth about the Republican candidate’s relationship to big business. As the analysis below demonstrates, this advertisement links Romney in voters’ minds to the corruption and social forces responsible for the 2008 financial crisis, outsourcing of American jobs, and the decline of the American working class. [10]

The advertisement had relatively small television circulation: only one day of advertising in an $83,000 dollar buy during local news programs in key swing states. [11] However, “Steel” still managed to draw explicit defenses from Barack Obama and response advertisements from Mitt Romney, marking one of the first controversial debates of the general election campaign.

The Argument of the Advertisement: Internal Analysis

OFA’s advertisement makes three key rhetorical choices: it adopts the documentary testimonial format; it evokes feelings of populist outrage; and it impugns Mitt Romney as an exemplar of the corruption in the financial industry. Those three threads are explored below via the visual, aural, narrative and argumentative styles utilized throughout the video.

1) The advertisement’s documentary format enhances its ethos. The advertisement purports to document a portion of Mitt Romney’s past career as the executive of Bain Capital. As such, it strategically adopts a documentary style, cycling through a series of testimonials from former GST Steel plant employees. Traditional attack advertisements employ an impersonal narrator who asks rhetorically, in a scathing, ominous, interrogative tone, “Does Mitt Romney care about you?” Instead, Obama for America advertisers eschewed that style to try to maintain the feeling of a news report or historical documentary. “Steel” introduces viewers to each of the speakers in order to build the sense of interpersonal connection. [12]

The advertisement constructs its testifiers as ordinary people. Soptic notes in his opening statement, “we weren’t rich”—an appeal to his average standard of living. The choice of setting for the former workers further highlights their “normal” American qualities: Soptic sits in his living room, while Andy Cruz and Jack Cobb sit in front of a set of family photos on the mantle. They dress modestly, wearing polo or t-shirts, and evoke vague images of patriotic duty (Wiseman sits in front of a flag; Cobb wears a naval cap). Just as their dress reinforces their ordinariness, so, too, does their manner of speaking. While they do not incorporate vocalized pauses and other common elements of speech, their phrasing and pacing mimics conversation. For instance, the pacing of Cobb’s delivery when he accuses Romney of “destroying lives, destroying lifetimes… just, destroying people” sounds spontaneous due to its quick alteration in pace and pausing. This lessens the feeling of “polish” that could make the advertisement feel inauthentic.

Americans might not be predisposed to trust a factory worker to convey the complex details of a collapsed business enterprise. For this reason, a more anomalous testimony comes from David Foster, the “Lead negotiator for workers at GST Steel.” He enhances the feeling of documentary objectivity by playing the role of the “expert.” Just as most documentaries will cut to a doctor, historian, or professional relaying the facts of some event, Foster serves this role in the documentary here. He sits in front of a bookshelf with a series of glass plaques and several academic-looking books. He wears a suit and speaks in a less conversational tone. Whereas the others in the advertisement provide a personal story grounded in their emotive experience, Foster speaks more broadly about the “facts” of the incident: “Bain Capital was the majority owner; they were responsible. Mitt Romney was deeply involved in the influence that he exercised over these companies.” From the position of “expert,” Foster contextualizes the despairing narratives of the former GST employees.

The advertisement anticipates and counters viewer skepticism by incorporating the documentary “pan and scan” technique over a series of news articles and artifacts. The headlines and accompanying photographs ground the narrative of the testifiers in a “newspaper reality,” informing the audience that the stories of the plant closing are not mere hearsay. One article states: “Shutdown is an end of an era; 750 workers to lose jobs in plant closing,” with an accompanying photograph of somber employees. One stands with his face in his hands, a concrete image of despair directly linked via the article to the historical incident of the plant closure. Another newspaper headline appears later in the advertisement, this time from the Chicago Tribune: “Romney firm: Profits first…” with the accompanying subtitle, “Under his leadership private equity company maximized returns, sometimes firing workers.” [13] Viewers will be more inclined to accept the documentary veracity of the steelworkers’ testimony when shown a newspaper article that supplements their sentiments.

Taken together, these elements of the advertisement heighten the trustworthiness of the advertisement’s claims about Mitt Romney and Bain Capital. By eschewing traditional attack ad formats, the advertisement instead claims to inform the audience about an aspect of the Republican candidate’s past that ties him to the financial deregulation and recklessness that triggered the Great Recession. By invoking the documentary form, “Steel” purports to provide a factual account or “true story” of Romney’s past experience at Bain. Much like a Dateline exposé, “Steel” gets past the “rhetoric” of the Romney campaign (captured in his speeches) to reveal the “reality” of what Romney was really up to when he ran Bain Capital (captured in the words of ordinary workers).

2) Through music, metaphor, and visual narrative, the advertisement evokes populist outrage. “Steel” taps into public sentiment following the bailout of major banks in 2008 and the ensuing “Occupy Wall Street” movement to connect anger about the economy to the actions of Mitt Romney. The emotional appeal is explicitly stated in the advertisement; Joe Soptic tells viewers how he feels (and how they should feel): “I was devastated; it makes me angry.” The construction of this emotion, however, is far more complicated than mere statement: “Steel” generates emotions through a combination of imagery, audio, and metaphor.

The advertisement constructs the following basic narrative of Bain’s relationship to GST Industries:

  1. With Romney at the helm, Bain became the “majority owner” of the GST plant.
  2. Bain eliminated pensions and “employee and retiree life insurance and health insurance.”
  3. Bain “destroyed thousands of people’s careers,” presumably firing employees to save money.
  4. Bain “made as much money off of it as they could.”
  5. Exhausting the profit potential of the company, Bain then “filed for bankruptcy without any concern for the families or the communities.”
  6. And finally, Bain “walked away with a lot of money.”

In other words: Bain came, raided the company for what profit they could, then left the company to die. Like most political advertisements, this loose string of accusations does not function by itself to persuade audiences to buy its positions. Even threading together the argument above from the disparate pieces of testimony provided in the advertisement requires several inferential jumps. It is through the visual and audio conveyance of this narrative—and the accompanying evocation of an emotional, guttural response—that the strands of the argument “come together.”

First of all, the advertisement follows the common cinematic strategy of leading audience emotions through music. The advertisement begins with light, upbeat guitar music and light brush drumming as Soptic and Wiseman describe the virtues of the steel plant: that it provided a “good-paying job” that manufactured “American made” products. Background images feature the employees of the plant working with molten steel. People are employed, and all is right with the world. But then—the music drops—“That stopped with the sale of the plant to Bain Capital.” A single drum beat, then silence, as Romney speaks: “I know why jobs come and why they go.” Then, the advertisement employs a single, despondent pluck on a string as Foster describes Bain’s majority ownership of the company. The music has now shifted, tracing the narratives as they proceed through the advertisement.

To make shots of the plant look more dead and lifeless, the filmmakers recorded images of abandoned buildings on a cloudy day in late fall or early winter. Bare trees devoid of leaves abound in shots of what viewers infer to be the shuttered GST Industries plant in Kansas City. In one visually stimulating shot, a pile of fallen trees sits before two emptied-out brick walls that surround an empty concrete lot. “It was like a vampire,” Cobb reports; “they came in and sucked the life out of us.” The metaphor coheres with the emptied-out and still scene, suggesting that the abandoned building and trees, like a corpse afflicted by a vampire, now lie lifeless due to the blood-sucking vampires at Bain. Soptic adds, “It was like watching an old friend bleed to death,” before the advertisement shifts to Romney’s own words.

The advertisement’s most prominent speaker, Joe Soptic, now becomes central to a visual and auditory narrative. A despairing piano subtly joins the musical score. The camera shifts to Soptic standing outside as he frowns at a drab off-white building that blends into the gray sky. A cut; he then stands before a yellow road-blocking bar to prevent cars from entering the abandoned plant. A sign reads, “Dead End – No Outlet,” a blatant and heavy-handed symbolic nod to the “dead end” the steelworkers have reached in life. “Those guys were all rich,” Soptic tells viewers via voiceover as he looks out at the building in the distance; “they all had more money than they’ll ever spend, yet they didn’t have the money to take care of the very people that made that money for them.” To close out the series of shots, the camera cuts to a broken chain-link fence surrounding a turned-over mountain of dirt. Visually, we assume the plant has been emptied out, torn up, or removed; that the company has been razed to the ground; and that the bustling movement of steelworkers seen in the archival footage near the beginning of the video has been silenced. The visual narrative suggests that Romney and his crew harvested the plant for all it was worth and left behind only a semblance of the structures that once employed the workers. Again, the “vampire” metaphor is reinforced.

3) Finally, the advertisement undermines Mitt Romney’s character by linking him to the 2008 financial crisis.  Throughout the advertisement, images and quotations from Mitt Romney are strategically chosen to construct a vision of a detached corporate executive. Romney’s slick executive attire appears in juxtaposition to the ordinariness of the former plant workers dressed in working-class attire. He is the only figure in the advertisement consistently shown wearing a white shirt and a tie; emphasizing this point, particular attention is called to one photo of him straightening his tie. He is shown in “boss” settings: behind a huge desk; signing papers at a reflective table in front of a panorama of the New York City skyline; and standing in front of the Bain & Company logo. Characterizing Romney as detached from working class issues, “Steel” portrays Romney in photos that make him look like the archetypal corporate executive. The high contrast of the black and white images and lined graininess of chosen film clips render Romney inaccessible and inauthentic, at least compared to the steelworkers featured in the video in higher-quality footage and lighting.

In direct quotations throughout the advertisement, Romney’s own words are used against him. In the first quote, strategically placed right at the musical “turn” in the video, Romney reports: “I know how business works; I know why jobs come and why they go.” The advertisement includes this quotation in a tongue-in-cheek way, as though to imply that Romney learned this lesson by letting so many people go at GST Industries. Following the advertisement’s employment of the “vampire” metaphor, Romney’s own words again appear in the advertisement. “As I look around at the millions of Americans without work, it breaks my heart.” Here, Romney’s past statement is summoned to indict Romney himself. Indeed, the advertisement suggests, the plight of these workers truly should break someone’s heart. By placing the supposed impact of Romney’s Bain efforts against the narratives of unemployed factory workers, the advertisement impels viewers to see Romney as callously disconnected from the harmful byproducts of his private equity work.

In the concluding sentiments in the advertisement, the chief testifiers in the advertisement tie together these appeals with a direct reference to Romney’s campaign. Wiseman dubs him a “job destroyer.” Cobb accuses him of hypocrisy, calling him a “brag” while suggesting he destroyed “thousands of people’s careers.” And finally, Soptic ties together all of the arguments with the most specific character assault on Mitt Romney: “He’s running for president, and if he’s going to run the country the way he ran our business, I wouldn’t want him there. He’s so out of touch with the average person in this country. How could you care? How could you care for the average working person if you feel that way?” These final quotations connect a series of unflattering motives to Romney. He lacks empathy, he acts ruthlessly, and he cares more about personal gain than the working-class Americans he benefited from as Bain Capital’s executive.

The Argument of the Advertisement: Additional Context

It is unusual for a president to publicly defend an attack advertisement. Often, during a reelection campaign, the president will distance himself from attacks to retain a vantage “above politics.”[14] Obama, however, stood by this advertisement’s argument, contextualizing it in a broader rationale for his opposition to Mitt Romney. Given the uniqueness of his lengthy response, it deserves further discussion:

The reason this is relevant to the campaign is because my opponent, Mr. Romney, his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience. He’s not going out there and touting his experience in Massachusetts; he’s saying ‘I’m a business guy and I know how to fix it.’ And when you’re president as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot. Your job is to think about those workers who get laid off, and how are we paying for their retraining? Your job is to think about how those communities can start creating new clusters, so they can attract new businesses. Your job as president is to think about how we set up an equitable tax system so that everybody’s paying their fair share that allows us to invest in science and technology and infrastructure. All of which are going to help us grow. And so, if your main argument for how to grow the economy is, ‘I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,’ then you’re missing what this job is about. It doesn’t mean you weren’t good at private equity, but that’s not what my job is as president. My job is to take into account everybody, not just some. [15]

“Steel,” in other words, takes aim not only at the background of Mitt Romney—but a fundamental assumption contained in conservative rhetoric. Free-market arguments have a way of discounting accusations of “ulterior motives” by treating self-interested motives as socially beneficial. As Robert Asen argues, rhetorical “market talk” invokes the power of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” metaphor to suggest that the individual pursuing wealth does so to the benefit—not the detriment—of society. He writes: “the invisible hand enacts a kind of magical transubstantiation, turning self-interest into collective action.” [16]

By pursuing successes in private equity at Bain, the argument goes, Romney’s Midas touch improved the fortunes of countless businesses and investors. As Romney later stated in his Republican National Convention acceptance speech:

Some of the companies we helped start are names you know. An office supply company called Staples – where I’m pleased to see the Obama campaign has been shopping; The Sports Authority, which became a favorite of my sons. We started an early childhood learning center called Bright Horizons that First Lady Michelle Obama rightly praised. At a time when nobody thought we’d ever see a new steel mill built in America, we took a chance and built one in a corn field in Indiana. Today Steel Dynamics is one of the largest steel producers in the United States.

Of course, not every company Bain worked with became a profitable national sporting goods chain. But Romney chalks up failures to the difficulty of running a business or thriving in a challenging economy: “Business and growing jobs is about taking risk, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, but always striving.” [17] The self-interested businessman brings success to others by proxy by generating wealth in the economy. But that success cannot be guaranteed to everyone, and the second someone tries to guarantee it, they have violated the wisdom of the market.

To combat this logic, Obama For America’s advertisement attempts to elevate destructive, negative implications of the businessman’s pursuit of self-interest. As Obama’s defense indicates, he does not aim to undermine the position that Romney’s wealth brought success to others. He rather hopes to elevate to equal status the rival position that the unwavering pursuit of business interests will also leave behind “devastated” (in the advertisement’s words) employees in its wake.

The Advertisement’s Influence on the Campaign

The reaction to the advertisement can be explored in two ways: the Romney campaign’s response and the media reaction to this (and related) advertisements.

1)     Mitt Romney went on the defensive over Bain.

In a rebuttal to the OFA “Steel” advertisement, Romney created a rival ad focused on the success of another company Bain funded called Steel Dynamics. The advertisement inverts the narrative of the Obama advertisement, suggesting that a once-empty field has now become a thriving steel factory—thanks to Romney’s work with Bain. It heavily evokes the American dream narrative, suggesting that the success of businesses like these relies on the hard work and entrepreneurial spirit of companies like Bain. The Romney campaign also crafted a video rebutting the main points of the OFA spot. [18]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2w7iXazNso

2)     The advertisement sparked a discussion about the Obama campaign’s representation of Bain Capital.

On the heels of the anti-Bain advertisement, FactCheck.org accused Obama of “lemon-picking” by “highlighting the venture capital firm’s failed businesses and ignoring its successful ones.” [19] Kimberley Strassel of the Wall Street Journal outright challenges the claim that GST Industries collapsed because of Bain Capital. According to Strassel, GST should have collapsed along with the ailing steel industry due to shifting economic circumstances and demanding unions. Instead, the infusion of private equity from Bain kept GST alive for several years. [20] These reactions typify the general discourse surrounding the advertisement, centered on the specifics of the GST situation in isolation.

“Steel” particularly generated controversy when another advertisement, this time from pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA, again featured Joe Soptic and a narrative about losing his job at the steel plant. This time, Soptic chained the narrative of GST’s collapse well beyond its shutdown in 2001. He discusses his lost health insurance, his wife’s eventual bout with cancer, and her death due to insufficient medical coverage. Whereas most challenged the original OFA spot on factual grounds, this Priorities USA advertisement garnered charges of over-wrought emotional appeals and slippery slope arguments. As Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post says: “Yes, people without health insurance are less likely to survive cancer. Yes, Soptic lost his health insurance when the plant closed. Yes, Romney was involved in the deal at the beginning. But still…it kind of reminds us of the so-called ‘butterfly effect’–that a storm starts with the flapping of a butterfly’s wings.” [21] Like Kessler, CNN White House Correspondent Brianna Keilar challenges the timeline of the advertisement and argues that it is empirically factually inaccurate. [22] Soptic and his story thus became suspect, undermining the credibility of OFA’s initial advertisement by association.

Overall, the broader debate Obama (purportedly) hoped to cultivate about business and presidential leadership was lost in the fact-checking discourse that surrounded the advertisements and Joe Soptic himself. Yet the discourse about Mitt Romney and Bain Capital continues months later in the campaign. Mother Jones, for instance, has released a video of Mitt Romney speaking about Bain Capital in 1985. Emphasizing Romney’s comments about investing in businesses to “harvest” them later, the MJ editorialists are perpetuating the conversation about Bain into October. [23]

Notes

[1] Basic details on the advertisement from Ken Thomas, “Obama ‘Vampire’ Ads Target Romney on Economy,” Christian Science Monitor, May 14, 2012. Accessed September 17, 2012 from http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Latest-News-Wires/2012/0514/Obama-vampire-ads-target-Romney-on-economy-video

[2] Frank Newport, “Americans Anti-Big Business, Big Gov’t,” Gallup, January 19, 2012. Accessed September 21, 2012 from http://www.gallup.com/poll/152096/Americans-Anti-Big-Business-Big-Gov.aspx

[3] Frank Newport, “Americans Rate Computer Industry Best, Oil and Gas Worst,” Gallup, August 16, 2012. Accessed September 21, 2012 from http://www.gallup.com/poll/156713/Americans-Rate-Computer-Industry-Best-Oil-Gas-Worst.aspx

[4] Frank Newport, “Americans Focus on Jobs as Best Way to Improve U.S. Economy,” Gallup, July 19, 2012. Accessed September 21, 2012 from http://www.gallup.com/poll/155768/Americans-Focus-Jobs-Best-Improve-Economy.aspx ; Dennis Jacobe, “U.S. Unadjusted Unemployment Rate at 7.9% in Mid-September,” Gallup, September 17, 2012. Accessed September 21, 2012 from http://www.gallup.com/poll/157484/unadjusted-unemployment-mid-september.aspx

[5] Joe Klein, “Why Bain Matters,” Time.com, July 30, 2012. Accessed September 17, 2012 from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2119903,00.html ; Christopher Rowland, “Mitt Romney Stayed at Bain 3 Years Longer than He Stated,” Boston Globe, July 12, 2012. Accessed September 17, 2012 from http://articles.boston.com/2012-07-12/politics/32633322_1_bain-capital-mitt-romney-financial-disclosure

[6] For example, in Romney’s Illinois primary victory speech he argued: “For 25 years, I lived and breathed business and the economy and jobs. I had successes and failures. But each step of the way, I learned a little bit more about what it is that makes our American system so powerful. You can’t learn that teaching constitutional law at University of Chicago, all right?” Mitt Romney, “Mitt Romney’s Illinois Victory Speech,” RealClearPolitics.com, March 20, 2012. Accessed September 30, 2012 from http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2012/03/20/mitt_romneys_illinois_victory_speech_113565.html

[7] Abby Phillip, “McCain Backtracks on 2008 Bain Attacks,” Politico.com, March 27, 2008. Accessed September 17, 2012 from http://www.politico.com/blogs/politico-live/2012/05/mccain-backtracks-on-bain-attacks-124630.html

[8] David A. Graham, “How Gingrich’s Attack on Romney and Bain Backfired,” The Atlantic, December 13, 2012. Accessed September 17, 2012 from http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/12/how-gingrichs-attack-on-romney-and-bain-backfired/249953/

[9] See, for instance, Helene Cooper and Michael D. Shear, “Facing Criticism, Obama Defends Ads Attacking Romney’s Record at Bain Capital,” The New York Times, May 22, 2012. Accessed September 30, 2012 from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/22/us/politics/obama-defends-attacks-on-romneys-record-at-bain.html?_r=0

[10] The 2008 advertisement “Keating Economics” can be accessed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g72BuIvMbWY

[11] Devin Dwyer, “New Obama Ad ‘Steel’ to Air One Day Only,” ABCNews.com, May 14, 2012. Accessed September 17, 2012 from http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/05/new-obama-ad-steel-to-air-one-day-only/

[12] Research in film studies has explored how documentary film constructs a presumed objectivity while merely, through images and sound, presenting an evidentiary depiction of reality. For more on this reflexive turn in documentary filmmaking and research, see Jim Lane, The Autobiographical Documentary in America (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2002).

[13] The article shown in the advertisement is available in an online version. Tom Hamburger, Melanie Mason, and Matea Gold, “A Closer Look at Mitt Romney’s Job Creation Record,” Chicago Tribune, December 3, 2011. Accessed September 17, 2012 from http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/la-na-romney-bain-20111204,0,3622993.story

[14] See, for instance, the discussion of Nixon’s campaign advertising strategy in Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Packaging the Presidency: A History and Criticism of Campaign Advertising, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996): 276-328.

[15] Transcribed from statement by Barack Obama. See Linda Feldman, “Romney’s Record at Bain Capital is Fair Game, Obama Says,” Christian Science Monitor, May 21, 2012. Accessed September 17, 2012 from http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Elections/President/2012/0521/Romney-s-record-at-Bain-Capital-is-fair-game-Obama-says-video

[16] Robert Asen, Invoking the Invisible Hand (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2009), p. 2.

[17] Mitt Romney, “Mitt Romney Speech to GOP Convention (Full Text),” The Washington Post, August 30, 2012. Accessed September 17, 2012 from http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/rnc-2012-mitt-romney-speech-to-gop-convention-excerpts/2012/08/30/7d575ee6-f2ec-11e1-a612-3cfc842a6d89_print.html

[18] Alexander Burns, “Mitt Video Defends GST Steel Deal,”Politico.com, June 27, 2012. Accessed September 17, 2012 from http://www.politico.com/blogs/burns-haberman/2012/06/mitt-video-defends-gst-steel-deal-127459.html

[19] Glenn Kessler, “New Anti-Romney Ad: Same Steelworker, Tougher Message,” WashingtonPost.com, August 7, 2012. Accessed September 17, 2012 from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/new-anti-romney-ad-same-steelworker-tougher-message/2012/08/07/ac9afe2c-e0ab-11e1-8fc5-a7dcf1fc161d_blog.html

[20] Robert Farley and Eugene Kiely, “Lemon-Picking Bain Capital, Obama-Style,” FactCheck.org, May 24, 2012. Accessed September 17, 2012 from http://www.factcheck.org/2012/05/lemon-picking-bain-capital-obama-style/

[21] Kimberley A. Strassel, “Vampire Capitalism? Please,” The Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2012. Accessed September 17, 2012 from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303360504577410573651845802.html

[22] Brianna Keilar, “Ad Linking Romney to Death of the Wife of a Laid Off Steelworker Not Accurate,” CNN.com, August 7, 2012. Accessed September 17, 2012 from http://whitehouse.blogs.cnn.com/2012/08/07/ad-linking-romney-to-death-of-the-wife-of-a-laid-off-steelworker-not-accurate/

[23] David Corn, “New Romney Video: In 1985, He Said Bain Would ‘Harvest’ Companies for Profits,” Mother Jones, September 27, 2012. Accessed September 30, 2012 from http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/09/1985-romney-bain-harvest-firms-profits-video