What we're watching: Ads in the runup to Super Tuesday
With Super Tuesday looming, candidates are taking to the airwaves and the Internet to get their message out. Here’s a rundown of some of the campaign ads we’ve checked recently.
• In a video ad released Feb. 28, 2012, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, took aim at all three of his remaining rivals in the Republican presidential primary race -- Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
The ad claims that Santorum "opposes right-to-work" -- a policy that "guarantees that no person can be compelled, as a condition of employment, to join or not to join, nor to pay dues to a labor union," as the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation defines it.
These days, Santorum says he supports a national right-to-work law. But on July 10, 1996, the Senate took a procedural vote to move toward consideration of the National Right to Work Act of 1995. Santorum voted no, and the vote failed by a large margin.
Santorum has zigzagging history on a national right-to-work law, but most recently, Santorum has stated on several occasions that he would work on behalf of (and if he became president, sign) a national right-to-work law. Since the Paul ad states that Santorum "opposes right-to-work" -- which means currently -- we rated the ad’s claim Half True.
• Santorum produced an ad that uses Romney’s own words against him, quoting Romney saying, "I don’t line up with the National Rifle Association." He did, but it was in 1994, when Romney was running against the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy.
According to a story in the Boston Globe about the issue, Romney stressed that he supported the bill's ban on 19 different types of assault weapons -- which the NRA opposed. "I don't line up with the NRA," Romney said, according to the story. But the quote was not a blanket statement of disagreement with the NRA, as Santorum’s ad may suggest. Rather Romney was talking about a particular issue on which he didn't agree with the NRA's position.
Since then, Romney has expressed greater support for gun rights, though it’s more of a shift in tone than substance. In Romney’s campaign website, there’s a section on gun rights that does not mention the NRA or the Massachusetts ban on assault weapons he signed as governor. Instead, it touts his work on behalf of gun owners, including extending the terms of gun licenses in Massachusetts and making replacement licenses free.
But he also said in 2007, "My position on guns is the same position I’ve had for a long, long time. That position is that I don’t line up a hundred percent with the NRA. I don’t see eye to eye with the NRA on every issue."
On balance, we rated the statement in the Santorum ad True.
• A Romney ad focuses on Santorum’s relationship with former Sen. Arlen Specter, the fellow Pennsylvanian he served with for 16 years in Congress. A description of "Arlen and Rick" on the Romney campaign’s YouTube channel says, "In 1996 and 2004, Rick Santorum supported Arlen Specter over conservative candidates."
We concluded that it’s true that Santorum endorsed his Pennsylvania colleague in 1995 and 2004 over more conservative primary challengers. In the first case, he was repaying Specter’s support for his own Senate candidacy. In the second, he was helping Republicans keep their Senate majority by supporting the candidate the party felt would be more competitive in a general election. The ad’s claim is accurate. We rated it True.
• In a 30-minute speech that’s running on television as a campaign ad in selected primary states, Newt Gingrich suggested the United States is awash in oil. "Turns out, we may have more oil in the United States today, given new science and new technology, than we have actually pumped worldwide since 1870," Gingrich says. "We may, in fact, by one estimate, have three times as much oil in the United States as there is in Saudi Arabia."
We found that a paper, published by the RAND Corp., does make a similar comparison, but it does not go so far as to suggest that the U.S. may actually have "three times as much oil as Saudi Arabia." The paper’s author told PolitiFact that such a leap is invalid since the comparison does not use apples-to-apples statistics.
The U.S. figure is an estimate of what may be theoretically recoverable without looking at economic viability, while the Saudi number is an estimate made with at least some consideration of the economics of recovery. On balance, we rated the statement Mostly False.
• A recent ad by the National Republican Congressional Committee -- the House Republicans’ campaign arm -- offered a flurry of statistics to argue that President Barack Obama doesn’t deserve a second term.
We looked at two of these claims. The first was that "since President Obama took full control of Washington ... every single day, more than 1,500 of our jobs have been lost."
Using the numbers available at the time -- which subsequently have been revised to be more favorable to the president -- and starting the count in January 2009, the ad is correct about the 1,500 jobs lost per day. But starting the count with Obama’s first full month in office, which we think is an equally plausible way of doing it, reduces that number significantly, to 43 percent lower than what the ad claims. Meanwhile, economists told us that the causes of these job losses are multiple, so it is also incorrect to attribute the blame solely to Obama. We rated the claim Mostly False.
The second claim was "since President Obama took full control of Washington," every day, 13,000 more people "have been put on food stamps."
We found that the NRCC ad was right on the number of additional Americans using food stamps during Obama’s time in office. But it’s wrong to suggest that Obama’s "full control of Washington" -- to the extent he even had full control -- was to blame. The broader economic cycle and changes in how the program is administered have had a major impact as well. On balance, we rated the claim Half True.