DES MOINES, Iowa — People in Iowa are getting to see a side of the Republican presidential campaign not nearly as visible to the rest of the country.
Candidates and their allies are starting to air TV ads in Iowa as the state enters the final weeks before precinct caucuses on Jan. 3, which will kick off the voting for a 2012 Republican presidential nominee. Some ads match what the rest of the country sees in nationally televised debates; some are more blunt and critical.
Iowa front-runner Newt Gingrich takes the high road in his first ad, with an upbeat ad reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign that boasted it's "morning in America."
Some ads blast Gingrich, often in harsh language the candidates don't use when onstage with Gingrich and everyone else.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Ron Paul's hard-hitting ads call Gingrich a hyprocite. A pro-Mitt Romney group does the same, adding the bitter twist that Gingrich's rise is exactly what the Democrats want. Romney himself takes a more subtle tack, noting that he's been faithful to the same wife and church all his life — casting himself as consistent while also implicitly contrasting himself with Gingrich, who's on his third marriage.
And one, Rick Perry, makes a direct appeal to Iowa's Christian conservatives in a pair of ads, one of which also criticizes gays in the military.
Whether the ads will make any difference is an open question. They must cut through the rush of ads for Christmas shopping. Many also have to raise doubts about Gingrich over three weeks when many voters will start tuning out politics for the holidays.
"In a season of goodness and joy, people don't tend to seek out attack ads to watch," said David Perlmutter, director of the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at the University of Iowa.
"On Gingrich, for example, the question is whether these groups have enough time to build up the negatives on him," he said.
The one clear reaction to the ads came Sunday in Ames, when Perry was heckled for his ad.
Here is a look at some of the ads now airing in Iowa:
TITLE. "Rebuilding the America We Love"
TEXT. Spoken by Gingrich: "Some people say the America we know and love is a thing of the past. I don't believe that. Because working together, I know we can rebuild America. We can revive our economy and create jobs. Shrink government and the regulations that strangle our businesses. Throw out the tax code and replace it with one that is simple and fair. We can regain the world's respect by standing strong again. Being true to our faith and respecting one another. We can return power to the people and the states we live in so we all will have more freedom, opportunity and control of our lives. Yes, working together we can and will rebuild the America we love."
IMAGES. A small-town front porch, small-town shops, a church. Factories. Flags. Amber waves of grain.
GOAL. Convince Republicans he is the modern-day Ronald Reagan who will unite and lead the party to victory. Gingrich has precious little money to buy ads, so this one has to reinforce his message onstage and in the media, where he says he won't attack fellow Republicans.
LINK. Watch the ad
TITLE. "Serial Hypocrisy"
TEXT. Starts with Gingrich saying, "If you want to put politicians in jail, let's look at the politicians who created the environment, the politicians who profited from the environment." Then quotes media voices saying, "Newt Gingrich on the defense for taking $1.5 million ... $1.6 million, some of it just before the housing market collapsed. ... .A think tank founded by Newt Gingrich collected at least $37 million from major health care companies, groups that support individual mandate." Rush Limbaugh says, "Support for individual mandate? Don't ask me to explain this." Another voice says, "Everything that Gingrich railed against when he was in the House, he went the other way when he got paid to go the other way." Yet another says, "He's demonstrating himself to be the very essence of the Washington insiders." Finally, the narrator says, "It's about serial hypocrisy."
IMAGES. News clips from Fox, MSNBC, Rush Limbaugh. A headline from the National Review, saying, "Gingrich profited from one of the greatest scandals of our time." A headline: "Newt Gingrich ... supporter of individual mandates."
GOAL. Aims squarely to knock Gingrich down. The toughest ad now airing, it combines ominous music with a rapid-fire sequence of headlines and statements portraying Gingrich as an unprincipled hypocrite who sells himself to the highest bidder.
LINK. Watch the ad
RESTORE OUR FUTURE, an independent, pro-Romney group
TEXT. "Why is this man (Barack Obama) smiling? Because his plan is working. Brutally attack Mitt Romney and help Newt Gingrich as his opponent. Why? Newt has a ton of baggage. Like the fact that Gingrich was fined $300,000 for ethics violations or that he took at least $1.6 million from Freddie Mac just before it helped cause the economic meltdown. Then there's the $37 million Gingrich took from health care and industry groups. And on the issues? Newt's been on all sides. He supports amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants. Gingrich even teamed up with Nancy Pelosi and Al Gore on global warming. And Newt was a longtime supporter of a national health insurance mandate, the centerpiece of Obamacare. Maybe that's why George Will calls Gingrich the least conservative candidate. The Gingrich record? 30 years in Washington, flip-flopping on issues."
IMAGES. A picture of a smiling Obama; a headline stating that the Obama plan is to "destroy" Romney; news headlines, and video of Gingrich with Pelosi.
GOAL: Inform voters that Obama's campaign has worked to weaken Romney, while informing them of parts of Gingrich's record that might turn off conservatives. The ad is part of a $3.1 million buy in Iowa by the group.
LINK. Watch the ad
TEXT. Romney: "I think people understand I'm a man of steadiness and constancy. I don't think you're going to find somebody who has more of those attributes than I do. I've been married to the same woman for 25, excuse me, I get in trouble, for 42 years. I've been in the same church my entire life. I worked at one company, Bain, for 25 years, and I left that to go off and help save the Olympic games. If I'm president of the United States, I will be true to my family, to my faith, and to our country, and I will never apologize for the United States of America."
IMAGES. Home movies of a young Romney with his wife and family, interspersed with a clip of him at a debate reciting the text.
GOAL. He has a dual purpose. One is to stress the consistency of his personal life to counter complaints from Republicans that he's flipped too often on major issues to be trusted. The second is to offer a contrast to Gingrich, who's been unfaithful, is married to his third wife, and changed religions.
LINK. Watch the ad
TITLE. "The Strong"
TEXT. Perry: "I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian. But you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As president, I'll end Obama's war on religion. And I'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make America strong again."
IMAGES. Perry outdoors, talking to camera.
GOAL. Perry's making an overt pitch to Christian conservatives, much more direct than Mike Huckabee did four years ago, when his ad raised questions about whether background lighting on a bookshelf suggested the shape of a cross.
LINK. Watch the ad
MORE FROM MCCLATCHY
For more McClatchy politics coverage visit Planet Washington
Follow Steven Thomma on Twitter