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'We're all in this together'

On late Monday, President Obama's re-election campaign released a widely-discussed, minute-long ad, in which the president spoke directly to the camera and presented the larger themes of the 2012 race. Late yesterday, the Obama team released something of a follow-up.

For those who can't watch clips online, here's the transcript of the 30-second spot, most of which again shows the president speaking to the camera:

"Those ads taking my words about small business out of context - they're flat out wrong. Of course Americans build their own businesses. Every day, hard-working people sacrifice to meet a payroll, create jobs, and make our economy run. And what I said was that we need to stand behind them, as America always has -- by investing in education and training, roads and bridges, research and technology.

"I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message because I believe we're all in this together."

I've heard some Dems respond favorably to the ad, applauding the fact that Obama's pushing back -- in a direct, high-profile way -- against Mitt Romney's absurd new argument. There's probably something to be said for that.

But campaign observers shouldn't miss the larger significance: if Obama and his team quickly put together a new television ad responding "those ads" that took his comments out of context, it means the president and his team believe voters have probably seen "those ads" and are afraid voters believe the ridiculous lie.

In other words, Republicans, by manufacturing a controversy out of garbage, have put Obama's campaign on the defensive, after they had been on the offensive over Romney's tax returns and business dealings.

The president has a message he's eager to share at this point in the race, and "what I meant was" isn't part of it. Romney's line of attack is unambiguously stupid, and it treats Americans as if we're idiots, but it seems to make Team Obama nervous, at least a little.

This new spot is set to run in Iowa, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia, starting today.