Las Vegas Sun

February 9, 2016

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Mitt Romney ad features Nevadans in attack on Obama

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Steve Marcus

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney answers questions from reporters after meeting with students at the UNLV Student Union Monday, May 16, 2011.

“20,000,000 Bumps in the Road” commercial, rereleased shorter cut

“20,000,000 Bumps in the Road” commercial, original cut

Sun Coverage

WASHINGTON — When President Barack Obama told a group of workers at an auto plant in Ohio this month that “there are always going to be bumps on the road to recovery,” Mitt Romney’s campaign rushed to rural Nevada to film a retort.

But the individuals Romney’s campaign featured in its “20 Million Bumps in the Road” commercial may not be a representative sample of job-seeking Nevadans — or even necessarily those displeased with Obama’s economic policies.

The commercial features about a dozen Nevadans lying on a stretch of road north of Las Vegas. Each rises one by one to proclaim: “I am an American, not a bump in the road.”

According to Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams, the commercial’s “specific focus was on the 20 million who were unemployed or underemployed; people who have been affected by President Obama’s failed fiscal policies.”

Nevada is fertile ground to focus on the recession. It’s the worst state in foreclosures (which have affected 70 percent of homeowners) and unemployment (which is more than 12 percent). You don’t have to look too far to find a Nevadan down on his or her luck.

The people featured in the commercial come from all walks of life, and at least in the original commercial, have a variety of stories to tell of the recession. But of those the Romney campaign identified or made available to the Sun, not all are looking for Obama to help them join the workforce.

Two are members of UNLV College Republicans club: Mark Ciavola, its president, and Derrick Lea, who is the campus outreach director.

Ciavola, 36, returned to college in 2009 after working in sales for several years at AT&T.

In the original commercial, Ciavola is the first to rise from the ground, holding a sign declaring his support for Romney upon which “I Want A Job When I Graduate!” is scrawled.

“Like all other students, I realize that it is increasingly difficult for recent graduates to get a job,” he said.

Ciavola, who was a volunteer for Rep. Joe Heck’s re-election campaign and also serves as an elected delegate to the Republican Party’s state central committee, has about two years left to complete his degree in political science. He’s a native of Massachusetts, where he said he voted for Romney when he challenged Sen. Ted Kennedy for the Senate in 1994, and as governor in 2002.

Lea is featured in the commercial with “Where are the jobs?” written across his Romney sign. But Lea says in his profile on the College Republicans’ website that he plans to enter law school after graduation — not the workforce.

The commercial was released hours before last week’s Republican presidential candidates’ debate in New Hampshire and a shorter version was released Thursday, which means the Romney campaign had only 10 days from conception of the idea to the release of the ad.

The campaign relied on word of mouth to get out the word that it was seeking volunteers to speak as down-and-out Americans.

Sara Lainz, a single mother who appears in the original cut of the commercial with her 11-year-old twin daughters, said she responded when a friend who she had volunteered with on Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008 told her about the filming.

Lainz was laid off in August as an assistant to the co-founder of Ardyss International, a network manufacturing company based in Mexico.

“I believe that what the country needs now is someone who can help the economy and create jobs,” Lainz told the Sun when asked why she volunteered. “I think Mitt Romney is the one who can make the change for us: We need someone who knows finances, someone with business experience, and will put the United States back on a good track.”

Romney has been touting his financial experience as one of the key credentials separating him from Obama, and like other Republicans, has taken to describing the country’s financial situation as Obama’s recession.

But when asked what she thought about Obama’s role in creating the bad economy, Lainz didn’t really have anything bad to say.

“I’m not blaming President Obama for what is going on. Obviously, things happen, and it’s not just America, it’s worldwide,” she said. “I just — I dunno. With all these rumors about his origin and the birth certificate scandal and everything else, it’s just a bit confusing.”

Nevada is considered a Romney stronghold: He won the early caucuses in 2008, has maintained a base of operations in the state, and has swung through Nevada a handful of times to drum up support for his 2012 campaign, and “intends to return and visit often,” Williams said.

The commercial, which aired nationally, does not identify the participants as Nevadans or specify the location where the commercial was filmed.

The Sun was not able to reach the entire cast to hear their reasons for participating; those appearing in the commercial used only their first names on the signs, and the Romney campaign and those participants reached either were not able to or declined to give last names and contact information for the other participants.

The others featured in the commercial are Jessica, who wrote “I’m a Mother, not a Statistic”; Jerry, who “was working 50 hours per week now I work 10”; Kevin, who says he “now need(s) three jobs to cover expenses”; Dustin, whose company went bankrupt; Jason, who has $150,000 in student loans; and Melissa, Matt, Shirley and Ryan, all of whom wrote they have been unemployed for a year or two.

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