2020 ad watch
October 21, 2020

If baseball and apple pie are the quintessence of America, the ad Joe Biden's campaign dropped during Game 1 of the World Series seems intent on making a play for that proverbial country kitchen windowsill. The ad, "Go From There," has it all: high school football, veterans, corn farms, and — yes — a train, all rolling by under a piano playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and famously folksy actor Sam Elliott talking about how great America is and can be if it finds common ground.

"No Democratic rivers, no Republican mountains, just this great land and all that's possible on it with a fresh start," Elliott narrates. "Joe Biden doesn't need everyone in this country to always agree, just to agree that we all love this country and go from there." Not mentioned in the ad is the current president of the United States. Peter Weber

October 18, 2020

The Biden campaign debuted a political ad during Sunday's Steelers-Browns game, centered around the Blind Pig, a music club in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The thrust of the ad is that President Trump's COVID-19 response, both economic and in terms of public health, has decimated the live music business. But the commercial is perhaps most notable for the song that kicks in at about the 40-second mark, "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys. This is, Variety reports, the first time the band has licensed any of its music for an advertisement.

The Beastie Boys agreed to using "Sabotage" in the ad "because of the importance of the election," the Biden campaign tells Variety. The band has allowed the song to be used in a trailer for "Star Trek" and in the video game "Destine 2," but the late Adam Yauch said in his will that no music he was involved in creating should be used for product advertising, and the Beastie Boys have sued brands for using their songs, Variety reports.

"A lot of restaurants and bars that have been mainstays for years will not make it through this," Blind Pig co-owner Joe Malcoun says in the ad. "This is Donald Trump's economy: There is no plan and you don't know how to go forward." The economy is, probably not coincidentally, Trump's strongest issue in opinion polling.

Still, Joe Biden isn't the only top presidential candidate with support from legendary bands. Mike Love and his touring Beach Boys band played at a Trump fundraiser in Newport Beach, California, on Sunday (though founding Beach Boys members Brian Wilson and Al Jardine made clear they had nothing to do with Love's participation in a Trump event). Peter Weber

September 30, 2020

It can be hard to distill a political message down to its memorable essence. In a post-debate ad released Wednesday morning, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's campaign found two words to capture the ugly chaos of Tuesday night's presidential debate: "Had enough?" The ad also features a crying emoji superimposed on President Trump's face as he argues and badgers moderator Chris Wallace, and the sound of a baby crying.

Biden also slipped in his most memorable line from the night, "Will you shut up, man?" — which his campaign has already made into T-shirts and face masks. Peter Weber

September 28, 2020

President Trump paid just $750 in federal income tax in 2017 and also 2016, and paid no income tax at all in 11 of the past 18 years due to huge reported business losses, The New York Times reported Sunday evening. It didn't take the Biden campaign long to throw together some stock footage, pensive music, and figures for what the average teacher, firefighter, registered nurse, and — adjacent to Trump's own business — construction manager paid in income tax last year. None of them paid less than $5,000, and most paid more than $10,000 in federal taxes — or at least six times what the purported billionaire in the White House paid three years ago.

Joe Biden and his campaign are looking to cut into Trump's support among working class voters. "Of course, Trump has repeatedly faced — and survived — devastating turns that would have sunk any other politician," Jill Colvin notes at The Associated Press. But the news he "paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he ran for office and paid no income taxes at all in many others threaten to undercut a pillar of his appeal among blue-collar voters," because "even today, when asked to explain their support for Trump, voters often point to his success in business as evidence of his acumen." Peter Weber

September 25, 2020

"Who says campaign ads have to suck?" Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) asked, introducing a new group political ad he modestly describes as "Mission Impossible meets the Avengers." The ad definitely has the vibe of an action-hero movie trailer, only longer — it clocks in at nearly 4 minutes. The point seems to be to boost the profile of five Republicans running for Congress, three of them military veterans like Crenshaw.

The expensive-looking ad has CGI explosions, Crenshaw jumping out of a plane, jocular banter, a teased martial arts fight between the two female candidates, and, for some reasons, a British woman telling a U.S. congressman what mission he is supposed to accomplish. If you want to know what these six candidates hope to do for you in Congress, you'll have to search out their websites.

Texas Democrats picked up a number of seats in the 2018 midterms, and the Republican National Committee just wired Texas Republicans $1.3 million for this election. "Fantastic ad by Dan Crenshaw with compelling message: in 2020, Republicans worry they may lose Texas," anti-Trump conservative David Frum tweeted.

Crenshaw's opponent, Sima Ladjevardian, is not a military veteran, but at least two-high profile Democratic candidates running for office are Air Force veterans — as they also note in their ads, more appropriately. One of them, MJ Hegar, is running about 7 points behind Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in recent polls.

And Air Force veteran Gina Ortiz Jones is running against one of Crenshaw's "avengers" — Navy vet Tony Gonzales, the "cyber warfare expert" whose talents Crenshaw said were put to better use running for Congress — for the open seat being vacated by Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas). The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race "lean Democratic." Peter Weber

September 21, 2020

There isn't really anything to agree or disagree with in a campaign ad Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tweeted over the weekend, nothing to actually fight over. But it does win points for brevity, clocking in at 10 seconds, 5 of which is Biden saying he approves the message. The other 5 seconds is President Trump marveling that he might lose to Biden.

Trump also makes what Biden spins into a promise — and if so, it's not one Trump will keep. As The Week's Bonnie Kristian argued, you're (understandably) delusional if you think "that if Trump loses in November, he will, in some sense, go away." Peter Weber

September 3, 2020

After a tumultuous summer, the final stretch of the 2020 presidential campaign has begun with pretty stable polling — and Cook Report analyst Dave Wasserman has a theory about that:

"Boring," it turns out, is a pretty exiting promise for conservative commentator S.E. Cupp, who recently announced she is voting for Democrat Joe Biden this year. "I never thought that I'd say this, but a new ad from the Biden campaign is speaking my love language," Cupp said on her CNN show Wednesday. "In a nutshell, it's promising to give me my life back. The spot opens with this question to voters: 'Remember when you didn't have to think about the president every single day, and instead there was someone in that office who thought about you?'"

The ad is aimed at Black voters, but it holds an "unquestionable appeal" for those who want "a government you simply don't have to think about all that often," Cupp said, "Politics in the era of Trump has demanded our nearly undivided attention," and "everything from watching football to mask-wearing has become politicized. And that is, to put it gently, awful. Politics and government weren't meant to be the omnipresent center of gravity in our daily lives, all but replacing family, community, work, or church. Our elected officials were never meant to be celebrities or cult figures who demanded our undying attention and adoration."

President "Trump's understanding of government is almost always wrong: absent when you need it most, intrusive when you need it least, and existing only to fulfill only his self-interested needs," Cupp argued. "We could sure use a break from this. Now more than ever, we need to focus on healing our families and our communities, and not on the federal government. And we need a president who gets that. So I don't need Joe Biden to promise to solve all our problems — he can't, and he shouldn't. But if he's promising to be less important in my life and yours, well that's frankly the kind of relief we all desperately need." Peter Weber

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