Battleground Bulletin: Donald Trump just paused his attack ads against Biden. Here’s why.

August 02, 2020

Donald Trump just paused his attack ads against Biden. Here’s why.

The only things going well for Donald Trump these days are the boat parades.

While an ever-growing mountain of polls shows him trailing Joe Biden in virtually every battleground state, the president and his campaign have been casting about wildly for any tactical lifeline that might help revive his dwindling reelection chances.

To that end, the Trump team has spent recent weeks desperately cycling through a litany of debunked attacks on Biden, seemingly praying that one will stick. From misrepresenting Biden’s record on China to stoking fear about crime and safety to even stooping so low as to lie about his opponent’s mental fitness, Trump’s scorched-earth campaign of deceptive attacks has thrown virtually everything possible at the proverbial wall.

It hasn’t worked.

Public opinion polls now show Biden not just maintaining his commanding lead in the race overall, but also holding a strong position on the individual issues targeted by millions in ad spending by Trump and his allies. And now the Trump campaign has reportedly pulled its television ads from the airwaves while they “review” their messaging strategy.

While the Trump campaign pushes pause and looks inward, let’s take a closer look at how their frantic messaging failures put them in this unenviable position.

Trump’s misrepresentation of Biden’s record on China has fallen flat.

Joe Biden is a respected statesman with a proven track record of smart and tough leadership on the world stage. He knows how to work with our allies and hold our adversaries to account — he did it in the Senate as Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee and he did it in the White House as Vice President.

So it should come as no surprise that Trump’s baseless attacks on Biden’s record on China have fallen flat with voters. They know Joe, and they trust him to handle our country’s most important international relationships. As the Los Angeles Times pointed out this week, “it is Trump who is losing ground with those voters, even as his campaign spends big on advertisements that target Biden’s China record and the president and his allies raise the issue at every opportunity.”

Recent polls bear out that observation. In May, a Fox News poll found that voters trusted Biden to do a better job dealing with China than Trump by a 6-point margin, 43% to 37%. But by late June, despite Trump and his listless super PAC America First battering voters with a barrage of false China-based ads, Biden’s lead on the issue had ballooned to double digits, according to a Suffolk University / USA Today survey.

Millions of dollars were spent — and even more ground was lost. That seems like a poor return on investment.

Voters have rejected Trump’s “law and order” fearmongering.

When Trump’s China offensive flamed out, the president pivoted to his next bogus line of attack. Maybe you’ve seen the tweets?

In this new desperate shift in strategy, Trump has apparently decided that his next best chance to save his failing campaign is to scare voters with racist fearmongering and attempt to convince them that Joe Biden is some sort of secret radical who will let crime run rampant in their communities. (Let that sink in for a moment.)

It goes without saying that this is a tough sell, to put it lightly. As mentioned above, voters know Biden — and they know he’s no radical. Voters are looking for a president who will bring the country together to address important problems like police violence and reform our criminal justice system — not stoke more fear and division. And they know that leader is Joe Biden.

In June, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that voters trusted Biden more than Trump to “maintain law and order” by a 10-point margin, 51% to 41%. In July, after a month’s worth of racist tweets from the president and a shower of alarmist ads from his campaign and allies, that number remained virtually unchanged in the latest Washington Post / ABC News poll, with voters preferring Biden on matters of “crime and safety” by 9 points, 50% to 41%.

Furthermore, as Trump has doubled down on his authoritarian impulses by sending federal law enforcement into American cities to crack down on peaceful protestors, voters have continued to reject his aggressive tactics and rhetoric. A majority of voters in two crucial swing states — Arizona (52%) and North Carolina (54%) — say they oppose Trump’s aggression in Portland and other cities, according to recent surveys from Public Policy Polling and MoveOn, with roughly the same number saying his actions constitute an “abuse of power.”

Americans have rejected Donald Trump’s racism and divisiveness. They want a real president who can bring the country together, not tear us apart. Or as the Washington Post recently put it: “To the extent that there is a law-and-order candidate at this point, it appears to be Biden.”

Trump’s baseless attacks on Biden’s mental fitness have backfired.

Even as Trump has shuffled through a myriad of issues in a sad attempt to find something that works, one thing has remained constant: Trump’s drumbeat of lies about Joe Biden’s mental fitness.

Of course, Biden will be ready to lead on Day One. (Feel free to contrast that with Trump, who’s still lost on Day 1,291 of his presidency.) Americans have seen Biden in the Oval Office before, working alongside President Obama, and they know his brand of steady, stable leadership will provide a marked departure from Trump’s unique blend of chaos and incompetence.

That’s why recent polls find Biden leading Trump on mental fitness for office — by a double-digit margin. Turns out the American people expect more from their presidents than simply being able to repeat five words in sequential order.

Trump can try to run, but he can’t hide from his coronavirus failures.

No matter how many lies Donald Trump tells about Joe Biden, nothing seems to stick. Even through all his dishonesty and distortions, voters have remained laser-focused on one thing: holding Trump accountable for his failures on the coronavirus crisis.

As we noted in our recent battleground polling memo, Trump’s disastrous mishandling of the virus response continues to be a pressing concern for all swing state voters, and the top issue impacting the vote choice of new Biden voters — the 7% of battleground voters who now plan to vote for the vice president but who did not support him two months ago.

That’s a problem for Trump, because Americans disapprove of his pandemic performance by increasingly wide margins. In the latest Navigator survey, 61% of respondents disapproved of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, with only 37% approving. Finding yourself 24 points underwater on perhaps the defining issue of an election with only 93 days remaining? Not ideal.

But it gets worse. As the health crisis has dragged on unnecessarily under the president’s failed leadership, the economic crisis has continued to deepen — and voters have taken notice. In that same Navigator poll, 74% rated the current state of the economy to be “not good” or “poor,” while 57% said the economy is getting worse, not better. Perhaps unsurprisingly given that dour outlook, Trump is also 16 points underwater on his handling of the economic recovery from the pandemic — with 56% disapproving of his performance, compared to only 40% who approve.

Here’s the bottom line: Donald Trump can tell all the lies he wants about Joe Biden. He can continue to throw away millions of dollars on false attack ads that not only fall flat, but backfire. He can try everything possible to divert people’s attention from the grim reality they’re living through every single day under this presidency — but it won’t work. The American people are smart and they won’t be fooled. None of Trump’s distractions and distortions will succeed, because he continues to fail to execute the most basic responsibilities of his office.

Until Donald Trump does his job and fully commits to combatting the pandemic, nothing else will resonate. Until he becomes the leader this country needs in this moment of unparalleled crisis, his campaign will continue to falter.

We won’t hold our breath.

The Trump campaign has been on defense for months, but recent reporting from McClatchy brought the campaign’s scramble to shore up their dwindling base into new focus. After a narrow win in 2016, Donald Trump and his super PAC are currently dark on Michigan airwaves and digital platforms. While the Biden campaign has been staffing up in the state and ramping up their advertising effort, Donald Trump and his allies have all but given up on a repeat victory in the Great Lakes State.

The Trump campaign has turned their focus to spending in other must-win states like Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona — an attempt to solidify an increasingly narrow path to 270 electoral votes.

Priorities USA has been outspending Trump campaign entities in battleground states since July of 2019. While Donald Trump has slowly abandoned Michigan as a viable part of his path to victory, Priorities has spent almost $2 million in the state in the last month alone.

ICYMI: Former Republicans, Tired of Trump, Look to Joe Biden to Forge a Path Forward

Andrew is a registered Republican. He has always voted for conservative candidates, but in a digital ad from Priorities USA Action, Andrew shares his plan to vote for Joe Biden in the November general election. “I’m doing what’s best for the country,” explaining his decision to support Biden as an act of patriotism, not politics. “Best for the Country” is running in English and Spanish on digital platforms in key battleground states, including Arizona.