Donald Trump’s campaign finally goes up with its first general-election television today, more than three months after he clinched the nomination and almost a month after the convention. The 30-second spot goes negative, taking aim at Hillary Clinton and by implication Barack Obama for an America “rigged” against ordinary Americans. “Donald Trump’s America,” the spot promises, “is secure” (transcript via Politico):
— Hallie Jackson (@HallieJackson) August 19, 2016
In Hillary Clinton’s America, the system stays rigged against Americans. Syrian refugees flood in. Illegal immigrants convicted of committing crimes get to stay, collecting Social Security benefits, skipping the line. Our border open. It’s more of the same, but worse.
Donald Trump’s America is secure, terrorists and dangerous criminals kept out. The border secure. Our families safe. Change that makes America safe again. Donald Trump for president.
It’s an interesting choice to come out of the gate with a negative ad, rather than an establishing positive ad that focuses first on Trump himself. At this point, Team Trump might have concluded, there isn’t much point in introducing Trump to voters — they know him pretty well already. That’s probably correct, and it’s also probably correct that the only way Trump wins is to turn the election into a referendum on Hillary — so why not get started immediately? Still, it might make sense to offer at least a fresh look at Trump through ads that tell stories that the media might have missed. In order to make people comfortable enough with Trump to vote for him, the campaign will have to tell that story, too.
Team Trump will spend $4 million on air time for this ad in four key states: Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. NBC has the breakdown of the spending by area within each state. A few observations (North Carolina spending looks straightforward):
Florida – It gets the most money, and most of it is spent either in the I-4 Corridor or up north. Oddly, though, they’re spending $206,000 in West Palm Beach in Palm Beach County, a Democratic stronghold. That might make more sense in Miami-Dade if Trump wants to go on offense, but there may be more donor cash in Palm Beach. The $206K they’re dropping in WPB is more than they’re spending in Cincinnati.
Ohio – They’re spending money in all major media markets … except Cleveland, where the GOP just had its national convention. They’re not going to follow up the opening?
Pennsylvania – Team Trump is spending more here than in Ohio or North Carolina, two states with an arguably easier reach than Pennsylvania for Republicans. They’re spending $530,000 in Philly in order to play to the critical suburban counties of that media market. They’re not putting all their eggs in one basket for the Rust Belt strategy, but they’re certainly prioritizing it.