- Ad Title: “Saved”
- Ad Sponsor: Restore Our Future Super PAC
- Issue of Focus: Mitt Romney’s character
- Type of Advertisement: Positive
- Broadcast Locations: State-wide in Arizona and Michigan, ahead of Super Tuesday
- Dates of Airing: First aired February 23, 2012
- Length: 33 seconds
- Web Address of the Advertisement: http://youtu.be/j5WI1FrUNzA
Robert Gay: “My fourteen-year-old daughter had disappeared in New York City for three days. No one could find her. My business partner stepped forward to take charge. He closed the company and brought almost all our employees to New York. He said, ‘I don’t care how long takes, we’re going to find her.’ He set up a command center and searched through the night. The man who helped save my daughter was Mitt Romney. Mitt’s done a lot of things that people say are nearly impossible. But, for me, the most important thing he’s ever done is to help save my daughter.”
Female voiceover: “Restore Our Future is responsible for the content of this message.”
Analysis of “Saved”
Yvonne Wanda Slosarski, University of Maryland
Restore Our Future, a pro-Romney Super PAC, began airing “Saved” state-wide in Michigan and Arizona on the Thursday before Super Tuesday. These were two important states for Romney’s bid for the Republican nomination, as he struggled against his challengers in other states (Cohen 2012).
“Saved” functions as a rebuttal against accusations that Romney acted as a “greedy, job killing corporate raider” (Boyer 2012) during his tenure at Bain Capital. Romney’s opponents accused him of being a “vulture capitalist” who profited from failing companies, with no regard for the destroyed communities left behind (Sherman 2012). “Saved” argues against these accusations by constructing Romney as a caring, compassionate business executive, who values people over profits.
“Saved” builds its pro-Romney message upon several assumptions. First, it assumes a congruity between private and public sectors, suggesting that a private sector leader is qualified to become a public leader. It equates business leadership with political leadership.
In addition, the ad presupposes the all-encompassing heroism of a single leader. The ad builds upon the premise that a leader can be responsible for an entire operation, whether it is a company, or a missing person investigation, or a country. The ad depicts Romney as the sole executive at Bain Capitol, who had the authority to put the business on hiatus without consulting any other people. It neglects the other business associates, most importantly minimizing the role of Mr. Gay, the missing girl’s father, in the search for the teen.
Ad Content – The World is a Scary Place
“Saved” constructs a menacing world whose helpless residents yearn for a strong hero. As Mr. Gay describes that his child was lost “in New York City,” we see a black and white photograph of the city’s skyline. It is dusk and an ominous fog seeps through the buildings. The camera moves slowly away from the photograph, suggesting that the sprawl of the city expands well beyond the wide angle shot of the camera. This implies the nearly impossible task that lay ahead in finding the lost girl who was facing an equally boundless danger (Lancioni 1996). A low, tense piano melody accompanies the images, magnifying the sense of danger.
As the black and white image of NYC fades into the background, we hear sirens and see a blurry, chaotic scene of a police car driving through the streets. Fog and smoke rise from the streets. Mr. Gay’s disembodied voice tells us, “For three days no one could find her.”
Even as Mr. Gay’s “business partner stepped forward to take charge,” viewers witness a blurry scene of the subway moving quickly past us. Images of newspaper headlines moving across the subway tell us that the business executive is seeking the “missing teen.” There is a barely perceptible video image amidst the already crowded visual space of a frightened girl huddled in a corner.
This dark and vast New York City envelops a small, frightened fourteen-year-old girl, who trembles, waiting for her hero to save her. The implication from the ad is that by extension, a frightening financial crisis looms vast and dark over the country, as the American people also await, frightened and helpless, the hero who will save us.
Ad Content – Caring Business Executive
The ad depicts Romney as a caring business executive who puts people before profits, and it does so from a first-hand account of someone who can seemingly testify to his self-less character. In an interview-style shot, as if speaking to someone just to the left of the camera, Mr. Gay explains that his business partner “closed the company and brought almost all our employees to New York.” He speaks very sincerely, almost driven to tears of admiration.
As Mr. Gay fades out, we see an image of Mitt Romney looking past the camera, his brows furrowed in consternation. Mr. Gay explains, “He said I don’t care how long it takes. We’re going to find her.” Gay’s voice cracks, suggesting that he is emotionally moved by Romney’s commitment. As the camera slowly retreats from the image of Romney, we see newspaper headlines superimposed atop Romney’s photograph. They read: “Firm shuts to help find girl” and “50 employees fly to NYC in search for teen-ager.”
This constructs Romney as a business leader who cares more about people than money and who is willing to shut down the company, and potentially lose profits, to find the missing girl. It counters accusations that Romney is a heartless, greedy, vulture capitalist.
Ad Content – Swift and Decisive Leader
Romney is also depicted as a strong and swift leader who moves quickly in crisis. Romney had been consistently arguing that Obama had not moved quickly enough to save the country from its financial crisis (Haake 2012). As Obama’s opponent, it is important for Romney to embody swift heroism.
When Gay explains that his partner shut down the firm, we see a headline that reads, “Search for Missing Girl, 14.” The words scroll off camera, suggesting that this was one of many headlines attesting to Romney’s search (Lancioni 1996). We see a home-made poster in the background with the word “MISSING!!” Mitt Romney shares the screen with the poster. He wears a dark jacket with the collar up. He looks like a concerned detective, on the case. As the newspaper headline scrolls, Gay says, “He set up a command center and searched through the night.” This implies that just as Romney took charge and worked through the night to save the girl, he would work through the night to quickly save the economy. The viewers, just like the girl, are passive, and we need Romney’s swift heroism to save us (Hariman and Lucaites 2007, 169-70).
The screen fades out and we see a picture of a teenage girl smiling as a scrolling headline declares, “Teen-Ager Found.” Gay explains, “The man who saved my daughter was Mitt Romney.” We then see a close-up profile shot of Mitt Romney. The camera zooms in on him, suggesting through such a close-up image of his face that this savior quality captures Romney’s true character (Parry-Giles 2000, 215-16).
The ad ultimately depicts Romney as a hard-working, caring leader who acted swiftly to solve a crisis. As helpless as the teenage girl, the American public can count on Romney to think of us first and save us from financial ruin.
Ad Content – The Private Sector Will Save Us All
Through this personal story of tragedy and triumph, the private sector is constructed as a savior—far superior to the alternative public sector.
Mr. Gay explains that his daughter was missing “for three days. No one could find her.” We hear sirens and see a police car driving. This suggests that the NYPD failed to find his missing daughter. Of course, the same year in New York City, officials received 6,244 reports of missing children (Criminal Justice 2010), which is about 17 missing children a day. Gay’s daughter was but one of many missing children for which the public police department was searching.
Still, with the public sector having failed, Gay’s “business partner stepped forward to take charge” and finally found the missing girl. This lauds the private sector as the savior and implicitly condemns the ineffectiveness of the public sector. This sentimental story of tragedy and rescue ultimately puts the life of one executive’s daughter over the lives of hundreds of other missing children, but does so in a way that glorifies the private sector. By extension, such a message reinforces the conservative theme of the Romney campaign and the Republican Party—the private sector can save the American economy; the public sector simply cannot.
Reactions to “Saved”
Campaign Legal Center:
“Saved” generated quite a bit of controversy, not in response to its claims, but because of its coordination with the Romney campaign. This ad is nearly identical to the 2007 ad titled “The Search” (http://youtu.be/hS1DvuLE2is), which Romney’s own team created.
Campaign Legal Center, an independent watchdog organization, filed a complaint against Restore Our Future (ROF) on February 27, 2012 before the FEC claiming that ROF “Made an in-kind contribution to Presidential candidate Mitt Romney in violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act.” By law, a Super PAC cannot coordinate with the campaign of any candidate and cannot give in-kind gifts to the campaign (Schultheis 2012).
See the filed complaint here:
Restore Our Future:
“ROF Treasurer Charlie Spies said the group has abided by campaign finance laws in re-airing the spot.
“The self-proclaimed watchdog groups imagine campaign finance violations around every corner,” he told POLITICO. “Restore Our Future has fully complied with all FEC regulations in purchasing archival footage for use in creating our advertisements.”
2010. “NYS DCJS Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse.” Accessed April 9, 2012. http://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/mcannuals/1990-2010-missing-children-county-trends.pdf.
Boyer, Peter B. 2012. “New Anti-Romney Video Attacks Bain Capital Work.” The Daily Beast. January 6. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/01/06/new-anti-romney-video-attacks-bain-capital-work.html.
Cohen, Tom. 2012. “Romney Wins Michigan as all Eyes Turn to Super Tuesday.” CNN. February 29. http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/28/election/2012/primaries/index.html.
Haake, Garrett. 2012. “Romney Hits Obama on Pace of Recovery After January Jobs Report.” MSNBC. February 3. http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/02/03/10311440-romney-hits-obama-on-pace-of-recovery-after-january-jobs-report.
Hariman, Robert, and John Louis Lucaites. No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2007.
Lancioni, Judith. 1996. “The Rhetoric of the Frame: Revisioning Archival Photographs in The Civil War.” Western Journal of Communication 60(4): 397-414.
Parry-Giles, Shawn. 2000. “Mediating Hillary Rodham Clinton: Television News Practices and Image-Making in the Postmodern Age.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 17(2): 205-226.
Sherman, Jake. 2012. “Rick Perry Dismisses Mitt Romney and New Hampshire Primary.” Politico. Jan 11. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0112/71306.html.
Shultheis, Emily. 2012.” Watchdog groups say recycled ’07 Romney ad violates campaign finance laws.” Politico. February 12. http://www.politico.com/blogs/burns-haberman/2012/02/watchdog-groups-say-recycled-romney-ad-violates-campaign-115471.html.