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Mitt Romney Has Found His 99%

The campaign turns its focus on the struggling masses. "We have 23 million questions for [Obama]," says a senior adviser.

Posted on May 15, 2012, at 4:55 p.m. ET

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With a heart-wrenching new web ad chronicling the plight of the unemployed, the Romney campaign has stamped its brand on the victims of the recession — a powerful message that could finally help them harness the populist outrage that has so far eluded them.

It's not the 99 percent; it's "the 23 million."

Twenty-three million is the number of Americans who are jobless or unable to find full-time work, and it's a statistic Romney has sprinkled throughout his stump speeches for months. But the video released by the campaign Tuesday — titled, "A Few of the 23 Million" — added human (and Iowan) faces to the figure, including a laid-off man who digs graves to get by, and a divorced father who lost his house and works odd jobs to pay child support.

A senior Romney adviser described the new line as part of the Republican's effort to run a campaign focused centrally on the economy.

"We were excited to see Obama pivot back to jobs after he spent a couple of weeks on non-economic issues," the adviser told BuzzFeed. "We have 23 million questions for him, and the video features ordinary people crushed by the bad economy."

The focus on the suffering masses represents a pivot for the Romney camp, which has spent much of the campaign thus far telling private-sector success stories — and promising that a Romney White House would help create more of them. The power of the new message is in its simplicity, and its potential to draw black-and-white battle lines. Occupiers gained traction last year by touting a war between the corrupt elite and "the 99 percent." Now, it's "the 23 million" versus "the Obama economy."

Said the Romney adviser, "This is where we want the election discussion to be centered; around jobs."