The Romney campaign explains, patiently, why a misleading ad is meant to be that way

Mitt Romney. (mittromney.com)
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On a conference call with two surrogates this afternoon, Mitt Romney's campaign defended its first ad of the cycle, which shows a clip of President Obama saying, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose." The ad doesn't mention that he was quoting a John McCain aide from four years ago.

Romney's director of communications Gail Gitcho jumped in front of a question from Politico's Reid Epstein about how the Romney surrogates on the call—former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire—could stand by an ad "that's clearly taking out of context something that the president said."

"Hi Reid, let me take this," said Gitcho, who told Epstein that she had already sent the ad's context to Politico reporters "all day today."

Gitcho proceeded to re-state, almost verbatim, parts of a blog post she wrote explaining the ad on the campaign's web site.

"This is something that was done intentionally because, as we've explained already today, three years ago, Barack Obama as a candidate mocked his opponent for saying if we keep on talking about the economy we're going to lose. President Obama is doing exactly what Candidate Obama had criticized. And his team, and the president, they don't want to talk about the economy and they've tried to distract voters from his horrible record on jobs," she said.

(The call was timed by the Romney campaign to coincide with Obama's visit to Manchester, where he was talking about his jobs bill.)

"So we're going to continue to talk for the next year, that this is going to be a referendum on President Obama's record. And every single day, like millions of other Americans, we're going to talk about his historic failure and the need to get America back on track," she said.

Precisely because its content was so questionable, the ad got an outsize amount of attention for a relatively modest buy of $134,000, and it allowed both sides to talk about the themes they would prefer to hit in the general election.

Romney focused attention on the president's handling of the economy, and showed that he wouldn't hesitate from some hard swings, and Obama's campaign responded by questioning Romney's veracity, which has been something of a theme all week.

"Just last week fact checkers scolded Mitt Romney for distorting a comment the President made about creating American jobs and now Romney launches a deceitful and dishonest attack rather than outline his own record or plans for the future," said Obama's campaign press secretary, Ben LaBolt, in a statement. The Democratic National Committee sent out a "Fact Check" email that led with the line: "Mitt Romney's first television ad continues a pattern of dishonesty and a lack of credibility on issues that matter to the American people."

It is by design that Romney is now attacking Obama directly, effectively acting as if the primary contest is over (despite the fact that he has yet to pull away in the polls).

Gitcho emailed the ad to supporters last night under the subject line: "Game On."

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