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In Presidential Ads, A Shared Strategy For Connection

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This week, the campaigns of both President Obama and Mitt Romney released new TV ads in battleground states that feature the candidates speaking directly to their audience, by looking straight into the camera.

The Romney ad appears to be the candidate's response to the infamous "47 percent" fundraising video, in which Romney is captured by a hidden camera saying that those who don't pay income taxes are victims who are dependent on the government. In the response ad, Romney is sitting in a room, wearing a checked shirt.

"We shouldn't measure compassion by how many people are on welfare. We should measure compassion by how many people are able to get off welfare and get a good-paying job," Romney says in the ad.

The Obama campaign has been running its own take on the 47 percent remarks. Its ad, airing in battleground states, uses audio of Romney's remarks under pictures of moms with children, aging veterans and factory workers.

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled ..." Romney is heard saying, in the Obama ad.

University of Virginia political science professor Paul Freedman calls the ad outstanding.

"You can hear the clink of the silverware, of the china, while Romney makes his comments. And this ad juxtaposes those sounds against really crisp, close-up images of Americans — Americans who are presumably part of this 47 percent. It is very well done and very effective," Freedman says.

In a two-minute ad the Obama campaign released this week, the president, sitting in his chief of staff's office, delivers what is essentially a condensed version of his stump speech.

"It's time for a new economic patriotism, rooted in the belief that growing our economy begins with a strong, thriving middle class," Obama says in the video.

In this ad, as in the Romney spot, the candidate is talking directly to the camera. Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, a fellow at the University of Texas, says both candidates are trying to make a connection.

"The eyes are the windows of the soul, and it's really a way of focusing in on the personal relationship that the candidate wants to forge with that voter," DeFrancesco Soto says.

She says it's a connection that's particularly important for Romney to make in the wake of the damage done by the 47 percent video.

"This is why we see Romney really struggling to make that eye contact literally with the voter and saying, 'Those comments, they were taken out of context. I really do care for you. Look at me. Look at the man. Look at Romney,' " DeFrancesco Soto says.

And while the Romney ad and the longer Obama spot each have the feel of candidates making their closing arguments to voters, with over a month until Election Day, it's certain there will be many more spots to come from both campaigns.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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