An unusual spot, particularly in light of who produced it. It comes from Americans for Prosperity, a.k.a. the Koch brothers’ outfit, whom you’d expect to be throwing nothing but roundhouses at O given how his campaign has demagogued them. Instead, you’ve got an ad here that’s so mournful about the lost promise of Hopenchange, it risks leaving you feeling sorry for him at the end. (Actual quote: “I think he’s a great person.”) Precisely for that reason, readers were grumbling in the Headlines thread that this spot doesn’t speak to them. That’s okay, though; you’re not the target audience. These people are:

This year, perhaps 90 million Americans who could vote won’t. “The long-term trend tends to be awful,” Gans says. “There’s a lot of lack of trust in our leaders, a lack of positive feelings about political institutions, a lack of quality education for large segments of the public, a lack of civic education, the fragmenting effects of waves of communications technology, the cynicism of the coverage of politics — I could go on with a long litany.”…

On the other hand, they do see a difference between the two major parties: 53% disagree with the statement that “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Democrats and Republicans.” Obama scores a huge advantage among all the unlikely voters. By 43%-18%, they support the Democratic incumbent over his Republican challenger.

“There’s this pool of people that Barack Obama doesn’t even need to persuade,” says David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, which took the survey. “All he needs to do is find them and identify them and get them to the polls. It’s like a treasure chest. But the bad news is that the treasure chest is locked…

Two-thirds of the unlikely voters say they voted four years ago, backing Obama by more than 2-1 over Republican John McCain.

Two points to this ad, I think. One: Convince “unlikely voters” that they’re better off staying home. Both sides are playing a version of that game; O’s relentless attacks on Romney are designed not only to win swing votes for himself but to disgust swing voters who are leaning towards Mitt into not voting at all. Two: Reassure true fencesitters who intend to vote in November that it’s okay to give up on Hopenchange, no matter how hard they were rooting for O to succeed. Lefty Jonathan Capehart wrung his hands last month over a recent RNC ad (which I’ve embedded below) that took the same more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger approach:

By telling potential voters “It’s OK to make a change,” the RNC is acknowledging all that I mention above. It’s OK to like the guy personally but not vote for him again. This is not a popularity contest. It’s OK to vote against the black guy. You gave him a shot. He gave it his best shot. He failed. And the most effective message is: “It’s OK to make a change” — and not be thought of as a racist.

Throughout Obama’s presidency, I’ve received more than a few e-mails and tweets from folks complaining that they are branded racist if they disagree with anything the president says or does. And it doesn’t help matters that I have seen more than a few e-mails and tweets from ardent Obama supporters doing exactly that. I have also seen instances of this on television and in print.

I think he’s overstating the racial element but his basic point is sound. People who backed The One in 2008 are reluctant to abandon him for all sorts of reasons — not just because his victory was historic but because he was sold to them as a half-Jesus, half-Bambi messiah figure and an awful lot of them bought it. Buyer’s remorse is tough to cope with under normal circumstances, but that sort of investment makes it excruciating. Plus, there’s natural sympathy for Obama because he took office right after the financial crisis. Few swing voters believe, I think, that the economy would be roaring along right now if McCain had won even if they believe it would have been better. You’re not going to shatter that wall of sympathy with a brutal ad blasting O as a socialist, but you might be able to climb over it by gently reminding them that we all make mistakes. That’s AFP’s strategy here.