Ads bombard South Carolina airwaves ahead of primary

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Along with the rain that greeted South Carolina residents Wednesday morning came a barrage of ads trying to influence primary voters in a state that has chosen the eventual Republican nominee since 1980.

Ads paid for by Rick Santorum and Restore our Future, Mitt Romney’s “super PAC,” seemed to be getting the most air time on network television, but voters were also greeted by ads from the campaigns of Ron Paul, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich, as well as their political action committees, or PACs.

Here’s a rundown of what voters are seeing:

  • Front-runner Mitt Romney is leaving the attack ads to his super PAC, showing positive ads in South Carolina so far. His campaign is running an ad in which the candidate, dressed in a blue plaid shirt, speaks to people about the importance of balancing the budget. It shows a woman in a graduation robe hugging a child and a man leading a young boy on a baseball field. “It is a moral responsibility to believe in fiscal responsibility,” Romney says in the ad.

  • A pro-Newt Gingrich ad by the Winning our Future super PAC touts Time Magazine’s selection of Gingrich as “Man of the Year” in 1995, showing still photos of Gingrich campaigning as it continues: “Now is the time for exceptional leadership. Bold leadership. Conservative leadership. Now is the time for Newt Gingrich.”
  • An ad for Rick Santorum, who has said that South Carolina represents his “best chance to win,” shows him sitting on the steps of a home with his seven children, including 3-year-old Bella, who is developmentally disabled. One Santorum ad asks: “Who has the best chance to beat Obama?” calling Santorum a candidate who is favored by the tea party, is “rock solid” on values, and has “more foreign policy credentials than any other candidate.” It calls Santorum a conservative who has the best chance to “take back America.” An ad by his super PAC, the Red, White and Blue Fund, shows stills of Santorum touting him as a conservative leader, then shows a clip of him in a suit in front of an audience, saying: “What wins in America are bold ideas, sharp contrasts, and a plan that includes everyone.” It ends, “Rick Santorum, the conservative we can trust.” ABC has reported that the Red, White and Blue Fund spent $190,000 in this initial ad outlay in South Carolina.
  • Rick Perry is running one ad on repeat, which tells his life story in 30 seconds – born in Texas, served in the military, married his high school sweetheart, created jobs as governor. He stands, facing the camera in a tan jacket, and says: “The values I learned served me well as governor of Texas, and will continue to guide me as president.” The jacket is the same one he wore in the controversial ad “Strong,” which he ran in Iowa, and in which he says there is something wrong with the country when “gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas.”
  • Perry and Ron Paul are both also running ads featuring veterans. The Perry campaign launched a 60-second ad Wednesday that begins with veterans including Daniel Moran, a Purple Heart recipient who has been travelling with Perry in South Carolina, speaking of their support for the candidate. One calls him “one of the most honorable men I’ve ever met.” It then shifts to clips of Perry talking, horses running across a plain, veterans returning from war and teary-eyed crowds, as the music swells under Perry’s voice in the background, saying: “I’m the outsider who’s willing to step on some toes. We can surely recapture what is great about America.”

  • A 60-second Ron Paul ad features two Vietnam War vets, Joe. R. Pena and Rene Reyes, talking about their time in Vietnam, and how they had never been thanked for their service. Paul helped them get medals, though, which they say makes people break down and cry. “It takes a veteran to know a veteran,” they say. South Carolina has eight military bases, and the Defense Department spent more than $7 billion in the state in 2010. A separate ad touting Paul’s military credentials and service is also running, paid for by the Santa Rita super PAC.


  • Romney’s super PAC, Restore our Future, is repeating an anti-Newt Gingrich ad that also ran in Iowa, which begins, “Ever notice how some people make a lot of mistakes?” and goes on to detail Gingrich’s “mistakes,” such as working with Nancy Pelosi and attacking Mitt Romney. Anti-Gingrich ads helped dampen support for the candidate in Iowa, where he finished in a disappointing fourth place.

  • Newt Gingrich is running a new ad, “Changed?” released Tuesday, that criticizes Romney’s abortion policies when he became Massachusetts governor. Starting with a still of Romney’s face, it asks what happened after Romney changed his position to oppose abortion rights, then accuses him of appointing a judge in favor of abortion rights, expanding access to abortion pills and signing a healthcare bill with government-funded abortions. “Massachusetts moderate Mitt Romney. He can’t be trusted,” the ad concludes.
  • An ad paid for by Ron Paul attacks Rick Santorum as a corrupt free spender who opposed a right-to-work act and voted to raise the debt ceiling. In colors of black, white and red, it quotes criticism of Santorum from newspapers such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, saying that Santorum has “a record of betrayal.” It accuses him of collaborating with union leaders and being one of the “most corrupt” members of Congress.