Santorum targets Romney 'negative attack machine'

Associated Press Published: February 15, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — TITLE: "Rombo"

LENGTH: 30 seconds.

AIRING: On broadcast and cable in Michigan.

KEY IMAGES: A Mitt Romney doppelganger armed with what looks like an assault rifle enters a warehouse and looks around shiftily. When a cardboard cutout of Rick Santorum pops out from behind a pillar, the Romney lookalike opens fire, spraying mud all around the cut out but not hitting the former Pennsylvania senator's image. The Romney lookalike continues to pace, growing more and more annoyed as he fires in vain at other Santorums that pop out. As the ad closes, the Romney lookalike tries to unjam his gun but it backfires, spitting a dollop of mud on the front of his crisp white shirt.

While the action plays out, a narrator laments that Mitt Romney's "negative attack machine is back on full throttle. This time Romney's firing his mud at Rick Santorum. Romney and his super PAC have spent a staggering $20 million brutally attacking fellow Republicans. Why? Because Romney's trying to hide from his big government Romneycare, and his support for job-killing cap and trade. And in the end Mitt Romney's ugly attacks are going to backfire."

Two lines of text appear during the ad. One, with a citation to an article on RushLimbaugh.com, says: "Romney Advisor Admits Romneycare Was Blueprint for Obamacare." The other says: "Romney's negative Ads Could Cost Him With Voters," with a citation to a USA Today article.

ANALYSIS: After going 3-for-3 in the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses and Missouri's non-binding primary, as well as surging in national polls, Santorum knows what's likely in store for him: a frontal assault from Romney, his main rival for the GOP presidential nomination. Santorum is trying to pre-empt any negative lines of attack with this cinematic and comical ad designed to make any such effort by the former Massachusetts governor appear desperate and ineffective.

Santorum's ad stands out because it's a rare attempt at humor in what has been an expensive and nasty campaign ad war. His campaign is hoping the goofy image of Romney running around with a mud-filled rifle will stick with voters.

Romney's campaign has been aggressive in in hitting at his opponents in the race. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who, for a time was Romney's chief rival, was on the receiving end of millions of dollars of attack ads in Iowa and South Carolina. Santorum, though, has not been the focus of a sustained media blitz by either Romney's campaign or the so-called super PAC that supports him.