I saw this spot yesterday and didn’t give it a second thought.
But the president wants us to talk about it, it seems.
So talk about it we shall.
One: He must realize that tweeting about the ad will massively amplify its reach by piquing people’s curiosity about it, yet here he is tweeting anyway. He did the same thing when he rage-tweeted about Michael Wolff’s book, making it a smash bestseller. That can’t possibly have been the result of strategic deliberation. It’s pure, self-destructive lack of impulse control.
Two: The tweets were sent at nearly 1 a.m. ET. Most Americans lying awake at that hour are worried about unemployment or the pandemic. He’s worried about George Conway. The tweets are de facto proof of the ad’s thesis, that Trump isn’t equal to the challenges facing him.
Three: If he was going to attack, he should have attacked the ad on the merits instead of babbling insults. He could have pointed to the fact that deaths and hospitalizations in our hardest-hit city have been declining for weeks or the fact that the U.S. has done more tests than any country in the world by far (although certainly not per capita), or to the massive stimulus he, Congress, and the Fed have enacted to soften the blow from the economic collapse. He has some counterarguments to his critics on coronavirus that’ll help him this fall. But he’d rather call Conway a “Moonface.”
I suspect Heath Mayo’s right that he would have bitten his lip if not for the bad internal polling lately. Trump’s worried that the election’s going to turn into a referendum on coronavirus, and given the trends, he should be. He’s betraying his anxiety by succumbing to the temptation to lash out.
Exit question: Does he really not understand that this isn’t a “copy” of Reagan’s ad but a deliberate contrast with it, to highlight the different trajectories of Reagan’s and Trump’s first terms? I think he understands it. He’s just hoping his audience doesn’t.