US presidential election ad war takes a nasty turn with Joe Soptic ‘Romney killed my wife’ ad

Now we’re not Mitt Romney supporters here, the man sounds as though he’s hardly been out of America and, when he has, as on his recent quick trip to Europe, he almost (almost) makes you think fondly of George W. Bush.

And American presidential campaigns don’t pull their punches, including the ads. But the process has become endlessly more worrying with the US legal decision to allow ‘PACS,’ i.e. rich supporters, to spend as much money as they like on behalf of their chosen candidates.

This one, from an Obama-supporting PAC, features Joe Soptic (above) who lost his job in Kansas City and, with it, the ability to pay for his family’s hugely expensive healthcare. So his wife was diagnosed with cancer too late and consequently died.

This pro-Obama campaign hits two targets: Mitt Romney, former head of Bain Capital, who closed down the business and the Republican opponents of ‘Obamacare,’ incumbent president Barack Obama’s attempt to create a more affordable health care structure (not affordable for small businesses, say the Republicans).

These include Romney, of course, despite his own actions as a former governor of Massachusetts when he introduced a remarkably similar scheme.

But does it follow that Romney killed Joe’s wife?

No it doesn’t and ads like this, which purport to be ‘documentaries,’ ethically should present both sides of the story, like proper documentaries are supposed to. But they don’t and they’re never likely to. So it’s dishonest to dress them up as that.

It’s quite in order to draw attention to Romney’s business background, his extraordinary wealth, his about-turns on public policy and his general brainlessness.

But this seems a step too far.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.