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AP/Photos by (Obama) William Woody and (Romney) Charles Dharapak

Debating debt

Politics | Groups representing the right and the left want to make the growing national debt a major campaign issue

WASHINGTON-A $25 million ad campaign launched this week joins a growing chorus of voices calling for increased attention to the national debt in the presidential campaign.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a conservative group advocating for economic freedom, began rolling out ads in 11 swing states Wednesday to take direct aim at President Barack Obama. The campaign will feature a series of issue-driven ads, but the first one, "President Obama: A one-term proposition," focuses on Obama's pledge to cut the deficit in half during his first term in office (see video clip below). The federal debt, now at $16 trillion, has risen more than $5 trillion since Obama took office in 2009.

Levi Russell, director of public affairs at AFP, said the ad campaign marks the first time the group has expressed advocacy for a candidate's election or defeat. "We made that change because we felt the stakes of this election were so high that we couldn't afford not to," he said. Russell called the national debt "dangerous and irresponsible," adding that it should be at or near the top of this year's campaign issues.

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The ads will run in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The AFP campaign comes amid calls on Capitol Hill to hold a presidential debate focused solely on the debt. A bipartisan group of senators-including Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.; and Mark Pryor, D-Ark.-recently issued their call to the Commission on Presidential Debates. Specifically, the lawmakers want the two candidates to address the findings of the Bowles-Simpson Commission, a group Obama tasked in 2010 with identifying solutions to the rising national debt.

A separate appeal went up from a collection of bipartisan political heavyweights, including Michael Steele, the former Republican National Committee chair, and former Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, asking candidates Obama and Mitt Romney to either endorse Bowles-Simpson or provide details on how they would reduce the debt by $4 trillion over 10 years.

In its letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates, the signers, who dub themselves Purple Nation Solutions, acknowledged that they are split on which candidate they support, but added, "[W]e all agree on one thing: The $16 trillion national debt, which is growing at an unsustainable pace, is one of the great moral issues and threats facing our nation."

Three presidential debates have been scheduled: Oct. 3 (domestic policy), Oct. 16 (foreign and domestic policy), and Oct. 22 (foreign policy). A lone vice presidential debate is set for Oct. 11.

Listen to a report on the Campaign 2012 ad wars on WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It.

J.C. Derrick
J.C. Derrick

J.C. is a reporter in WORLD's Washington Bureau. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.

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