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Mitt's Media Blast

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's decision to begin his television advertising campaign in a series of early primary states today signals a new phase in the run for the Republican presidential nomination.

To date, the Republican and Democratic candidates seeking the White House have played an inside game -- recruiting key activists and donors, putting into place a national organization and visiting early-voting primary and caucus states. All of that activity flies under the radar of the average person who likely has no idea the presidential race has even begun.

But, in going up with a 60-second commercial in select markets in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan and Florida, (over the next week) Romney is vastly expanding the universe of people he hopes to reach and forcing his opponents to re-evaluate when they might begin their own paid advertising campaigns in early states.

The reason for Romney's decision is two fold.

First, he needs to transition from a candidate with great potential to a great candidate. Romney still trails Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani badly in both state and national polling. Romney must, therefore, start to make his case for the nomination sooner rather than later. He has run a deft campaign thus far by successfully wooing the Republican establishment and Washington's chattering class but now must prove that early success is predictive of how he will be received by the broader Republican electorate.

The second reason for Romney early ad blitz is simple: because he can. Romney has proven an able fundraiser -- collecting more than $6 million on a single day last month. He will have more than enough financial resources to build his name identification in early states.

The ad itself is nicely produced -- kudos to Romney media consultant Alex Castellanos -- and seeks to present Romney as an outsider with a record of getting things done. Clips of Romney speaking on the campaign trail with narration that touts Romney's accomplishments both in and out of public life.

"Every place that Mitt has gone he has solved problems that people said were nearly impossible," says Romney's wife Ann at the start of the ad.

Romney himself goes on to mention a variety of popular Republican issues -- taxes, spending, judges -- as the words "Strong. New. Leadership." appear on the screen.

"This is not a time for more talk and dithering in Washington," says Romney in an attempt to further drive home his outside-of-Washington resume. "It's a time for action."

The ad is aimed at introducing Mitt Romney to the voters of these influential early states and should do nicely on that front. We would expect Romney's numbers to immediately bump up slightly in polling out of the Hawkeye State as those who were unfamiliar with the former governor are exposed to him through this ad. The real test for Romney is how quickly can he grow his support in places like Iowa and South Carolina and whether he can sustain that growth under what will likely be a withering assault from McCain, Giuliani and others.

By Chris Cillizza  |  February 20, 2007; 12:39 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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