A screenshot of the latest ad for President Obama's reelection campaign,… (BarackObama.com / Los Angeles…)
A crucial phase of President Obama's endangeredreelection bid is now underway: the effort to define Mitt Romney in negative terms before voters can form a more positive image of the Republican challenger.
The president's campaign has just released a new attack ad that portrays Romney as "a job destroyer." The two-minute spot is part of an effort to disqualify Romney in the minds of a key group of swing voters -- working-class white men.
As a result, it departs from the usual diverse mix of ad subjects that characterizes the president's politics. In this one, virtually everyone appearing on camera is a white man.
More notable, perhaps, is where the ad buy is mainly aimed: Ohio, Virginia, Colorado and Iowa. The electoral map can and probably will change over the next five-and-a-half months, but those states have now been singled out by Obama strategists as the battlegrounds of battlegrounds in 2012. (The new spots are also airing in Pennsylvania, but the Pittsburgh media market reaches much of eastern Ohio, home to many of the voters the Obama camp is trying to influence).
Those four states are a combination of opportunity targets and virtual must-wins for Obama. All are currently rated as tossups.
Opportunities: Virginia and Ohio. Both are vital to any realistic scenario that gets Romney to the 270 electoral votes needed to win. If Obama carries either state (he took them both in 2008), he's almost certain to win reelection.
Must-wins: Unless he carries Ohio or Virginia, Obama will need a batch of smaller states -- Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada -- to make up the difference.
A recent $25-million wave of positive Obama ads in battleground states was only an opening round. And if Obama had the same seemingly unlimited money that he had four years ago, perhaps others would have been added to the latest buy.
But this is the real business of the president's campaign. And the Obama forces are likely to keep the negative pressure on Romney from now until Nov. 6.