Trump's two-minute final ad: "The Argument for America"

The audio comes, I believe, from the speech he gave three weeks ago attacking the cabal of international banks, corporate media, and assorted other elite “global special interests” that have colluded to “bleed America dry.” And at the heart of it all lay … the Clinton machine. (What, you thought a rant about the banks and the media plotting against Americans would name a different culprit?) That was five days after the “Access Hollywood” tape came out and just one day after the first story accusing him of sexual assault appeared in the Times. My sense of the speech, which was the closest thing to a true alt-right rant he managed all campaign, was that he and his advisors (probably Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, the most ardent nationalists of the bunch) felt he had little left to lose by letting it all hang out ideologically after the scandal damage he had just suffered. So he let it all hang out — but, interestingly, didn’t continue to hammer these points on the campaign trail in the following weeks. That’s probably because they were heavily scripted whereas his rallies have continued to be freewheeling extemporaneous events. Trump can talk off-the-cuff for half an hour about all the things he dislikes about the media and how unfairly they’ve treated him, but to put that in the broader nationalist context of “global special interests,” you need a Bannon or a Miller and a teleprompter.

That said, this spot is effective, especially since they excised some bits about the banks and the media. This plays now like a more generic populist attack on “the system” and its corrupt self-dealing administrators, embodied most notably by Hillary Clinton. This is exactly how you should frame your closing argument if you’re a candidate like Trump, who’s carting around tons of baggage. It’s not about electing him, supposedly, it’s about stopping them. His voters already tend to view their vote less as support for Trump than as opposition to Clinton. He’s encouraging that impulse here: Go to the polls and vote against business as usual in Washington. In the end, the candidate who wins will probably be the candidate who succeeded more at turning the vote into a referendum on his or her opponent’s fitness for office. This is Trump’s last, best effort.

The campaign says it’s spending $4 million to air this in Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Ohio, Michigan, Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, and New Mexico, all of which are in play per the latest polls. Yes, even Pennsylvania. (More on that in an upcoming post.)

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