GOP presidential hopeful and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) today released this ad to preview his upcoming July 7 Iowa speech to address the economy:

It’s hard not to compare the ad to GOP frontrunner and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s recent 30-second spot, released to coincide with his pitstop in Pennsylvania:

Santorum’s ad is less lightly executed, but it conveys the same important message. President Barack Obama predicted his own one-term exit if he was unable to right the economy — and the economy hasn’t improved. Again and again, the GOP candidates need to hammer that point home.

Overall, the ad and Santorum’s impending “Courage to Fight for American Jobs” tour in Iowa mark an important emphasis shift for the candidate whose name is nearly synonymous with “social conservative.” That shift is smart. Santorum will likely make a far more effective competitor when he joins the presently dominant chord of the conservative chorus — that is, when he contributes to the cries against Obama’s foul economy — than when he criticizes his fellow GOP contenders for failing to sign a pro-life pledge. The criticisms of other candidates — however valid (I, likewise, wish Romney would sign that paper!) — unfortunately only make Santorum look dour.

That’s not to say Santorum shouldn’t emphasize what sets him apart as a candidate — his impeccable social record — but it is to say he’s better off bundling all of that into one positive package and demonstrating his understanding of what’s uppermost in Americans’ minds right now.

Speaking of positive, I really like the way his press staff describes the economic half of his platform as “a hopeful economic vision to reignite America’s innovative spirit.” If his speech delivers on that brightly worded tease, then maybe July 7 will mark a break-out moment for Mr. Santorum.