Many political analysts believe the 2012 general election will ride on jobs and the economy. In South Carolina, where the unemployment rate is higher than the national average, the issue is especially important, and President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign aimed to get in front of the jobs discussion there through an eye-grabbing ad effort the day of the state’s primary.
“Jobs in America: The facts may surprise you,” stated a giant homepage takeover ad on ThePostAndCourier.com, a Charleston news site, on January 21. A photo of the president was accompanied by a quote from Obama suggesting “Never underestimate the American worker.”
But even more than other Obama campaign ads this cycle, the one-day ad was chock full of factual information intended to persuade voters. It featured an animated graph image illuminating U.S. job growth data, and stated that the administration has created “3.1 million jobs” and presided over “22 straight months of private sector job growth.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment is 9.9 percent in South Carolina compared to the national 8.5 percent rate.
The South Carolina primary day ad is the third in what could become a long series of primary day homepage takeovers from the Obama team. This emerging ad trend indicates pre-planning months ahead of time by the campaign. However, the South Carolina ad is unique in that it contains a positive message, in contrast with the Iowa and New Hampshire efforts that came before it. Those took aim at Republicans and tea partiers, and suggested that the Republican agenda has resulted in tax cuts for millionaires that harm the middle class.
Another distinction: while the Iowa and New Hampshire ads linked to pages highlighting ways to get involved with the Obama campaign in those respective states, the South Carolina ad landing page makes no mention of the state. It was clearly intended to educate voters, encouraging them to click to “Get the facts.” The subsequent page elaborates on the president’s jobs record, and allows people to send an email postcard featuring a private sector job creation chart based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The president reiterated his message on jobs in a web video published the day before the recent primary. His “central focus as president,” he says in the video, is “rebuilding an economy where hard work pays off.”
However, many of the ads targeting South Carolina voters from the GOP candidates and their Super PAC surrogates didn’t mention jobs. Mitt Romney ran ads suggesting “We have a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in,” and that he is “Ready to Lead.” Ron Paul ads attacked Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, while pro-Gingrich group Winning Our Future ran ads linking to a video that painted Romney as a flip-flopper who once supported abortion rights.