Ad Wars
June 19, 2020

Joe Biden might be starting to get under President Trump's skin. The former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee launched his first general election TV ads this week, and they're — uh, pretty intense!

Despite being just one minute long, the ad manages to hit Trump for "attacking healthcare for patients with pre-existing conditions," "giving massive tax cuts to billionaires," "praising white supremacists," "losing 300,000 jobs in a failed trade war with China," "locking children in cages," and "[ignoring] science on coronavirus … now over 100,000 dead Americans, 20 million jobs destroyed."

The ad got a rise out of Trump, who took to Twitter on Friday to call out the "fake ad" for being "totally false advertising," questionably claiming that "I LOVE seniors [and] protect preexisting C's."

Watch the ruthless Biden ad spot, shared by Democratic strategist Adam Parkhomenko, below. Jeva Lange

June 9, 2020

The Lincoln Project, a super PAC of Republican strategists seeking to defeat President Trump, released another ad Tuesday morning that savagely targets one of Trump's manifest insecurities, in this case the first one he revealed as president.

"It took almost four years for Trump to get the crowds he wanted," the narrator says over photos of Trump's sparse inaugural crowd followed by large Black Lives Matters protests from around the country. "After years of Donald Trump's divisiveness and discord, America is coming together." Voters will have to choose between America and Trump, the ad argues. "Imagine how big the crowds will be when he's gone."

Trump has tried to hit back at the Lincoln Project's founders, including George Conway, husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, but the group seems to revel in his tweets and verbal insults. They even created an ad bragging "we're still there, living in your head."

There's evidence the group really has gotten inside Trump's head. One reason Trump's re-election campaign is spending more than $400,000 on cable news ads in the solidly blue Washington, D.C., market is his paid advisers are "hoping to counter-program recent ads" by the Lincoln Project, The Daily Beast reported Monday night, citing two campaign sources. Trump responded furiously after the super PAC aired an ad called "Mourning in America" on Fox News in the D.C. area, a strategy Conway said his group learned from Trump's team.

The Lincoln Project also cut an ad zeroing in on Trump's reported anxiety that his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, is using the Trump name to get rich, even as Trump's poll numbers slide.

Conway has argued at length that Trump is a sociopathic narcissist, and another recent mocked "a frightened Trump" who "hides from protesters in a deep bunker, firing off tweets" like a "coward." Trump claimed on Fox News radio last week that he was only "inspecting" the bunker, an obvious lie that Attorney General William Barr causally upended Monday afternoon.

"The Lincoln Project represents a limited constituency, given that President Trump has received exceedingly high approval numbers among Republicans in poll after poll," The Daily Beast notes. "But the group and its D.C.-targeted messages have managed to get under the president's skin." Peter Weber

March 26, 2020

President Trump's re-election campaign sent cease-and-desist letters to local television stations on Wednesday, threatening them with legal action and potentially their broadcast licenses if they continue to air an ad from a Democratic group, Priorities USA. The ad plays audio of Trump downplaying the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic over a chart of the mounting number of cases in the U.S. — now at more than 69,000 — but the Trump campaign objected only to one clip, of Trump saying "this is their new hoax."

That quote comes from a Feb. 28 rally at which Trump repeatedly called his handling of the epidemic "one of the great jobs" and compared the Democrats "politicizing" of the coronavirus to the Russia investigation and Ukraine scandal. As The Washington Post noted in a fact-check cited by the Trump campaign, Trump said this:

They tried the impeachment hoax. That was on a perfect conversation. They tried anything ... And this is their new hoax. But you know we did something that’s been pretty amazing. We have 15 people in this massive country and because of the fact that we went early, we went early, we could have had a lot more than that. [Trump, Feb. 28 rally]

Guy Cecil, who leads Priorities USA, said on Twitter that the point of the letter was "to stop this ad from airing because he doesn't want Americans to know the truth."

A super PAC supporting likely Democratic nominee Joe Biden also released an ad using Trump's "hoax" line, but gave a bit more context.

"Granted, Trump and members of his administration have played down the spread of the virus and falsely touted the strength of their response, as our numerous fact checks have pointed out," The Washington Post noted. "But that does not excuse this kind of video manipulation. ... This effectively skews reality and leaves the viewer to wonder what or who related to coronavirus is, in fact, a hoax?" Peter Weber

April 21, 2016

On Wednesday, Ted Cruz's campaign posted a new promotional video, "War Room," and it's a doozy. It takes place in what's apparently supposed to be Hillary Clinton's campaign strategy room, during a meeting run by an actress resembling Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Most of the two-and-a-half-minute ad involves Clinton advisers explaining to a thin-skinned Clinton (a younger actress with high-school-drama makeup pancaked on her face) their plan to steamroll over Donald Trump in the general election. They use a slide projector.

"The point is, if Trump becomes the Republican nominee, the White House is yours," says one adviser. "What do you mean, 'if'?" asks the Abedin stand-in sharply. It's a clever two-birds-with-one-stone strategy, carried out with the overdramatic panache of a basic-cable nighttime cop drama. It plays a little fast-and-lose with the polls, though...

...as Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) indirectly notes in his latest ad, "Worst-Case Scenario." Kasich doesn't have actors making his case, he has TV news anchors and pundits. And guess which candidate is the "worst-case scenario"? Peter Weber

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