(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

THE MORNING PLUM:

Last night, Donald Trump delivered a speech in which he spoke in soothing tones about the need to unify the country and expressed “regret” about any remarks that have caused “personal pain,” though he didn’t specify which particular remarks he regrets. This led some commentators to suggest that another “pivot” is underway.

This morning, Trump released his first general election ad, an ugly and dishonest production which shows he isn’t changing a thing.

In fact, the new ad is filled with precisely the same sort of dark, dystopian themes and content — and even some of the same sort of grainy, dark footage depicting illegal immigrants as invaders — that marked one of the first ads he ran during the GOP primaries.

That says it all. Here’s the new ad:

The first general election television ad from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign accuses Democratic rival Hillary Clinton of keeping the "system rigged." Trump released the ad Aug. 19. (Donald Trump)

 

NBC News, which first broke the story of the ad, reports that it is backed by a $4 million buy and will run for 10 days in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina. (It’s noteworthy that Trump is on defense in North Carolina and is spending sums there comparable to the amounts in these other must-win states. If he loses North Carolina, there probably is no path.)

Now note how similar this new general election ad is to the one Trump ran all the way back in January in Iowa and New Hampshire, setting the themes with which he would successfully appeal to GOP primary voters:

Presidential candidate Donald Trump released his first television ad spot Jan. 4. (Donald Trump)

 

Trump’s ad in the primaries depicted the main problems facing the country as illegal immigration and terrorism, featuring dark, grainy footage of illegal immigrants streaming into the country while vowing to “Make America Great Again.”

Trump’s first general election ad depicts the main problems facing the country as illegal immigration and terrorism, featuring dark, grainy footage of illegal immigrants streaming into the country while vowing to “Make America Safe Again.”

In one respect, the new ad also goes further in its demagoguery than the original GOP primary ad did — it claims that the border is “open.” Broadly speaking, the new Trump ad echoes some of the ugliest elements of the picture Trump’s convention speech painted of what ails America and what must be done about it — a speech that may have further alienated some of the voter groups he needs to expand his appeal among if he is to turn around his slide.

Fun, revealing footnote: The new Trump ad, like the one he ran during the GOP primaries, has unmistakable parallels with the immigration ad that GOP Governor Pete Wilson ran in California in the mid 1990s that also depicted our borders overrun with dark hordes. As E.J. Dionne reports in his book on American conservatism, some Republicans see eerie parallels between the California GOP’s decline amid a failure to adapt to the state’s ongoing demographic changes, and the national party’s current failure to adapt to similar demographic changes sweeping the whole country — not to mention the impact they are having on national elections.

Now the GOP nominee is using a very, er, Wilsonian approach — two decades later, and in a general election.

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* WHICH REMARKS DOES TRUMP REGRET? On ABC News, Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway tried to explain it:

“He was talking about anyone who feels offended by anything he said,” Conway elaborated today. “He took extra time yesterday going over that speech with a pen so that was a decision he made. Those are his words.”…

Conway did not clarify whether Trump would apologize for specific comments or whether he would personally apology to the parents of Capt. Khan. “He may. But I certainly hope they heard him,” she said. “I hope America heard him because of all the people, David, who have been saying, hey, let’s get Trump to pivot, let’s get him to be more presidential. That is presidential.”

Never mind the specifics. If the Trump campaign says he’s pivoting and acting presidential, it must be true.

* REPUBLICANS PANIC ABOUT TRUMP’S DOWN-BALLOT EFFECT: The New York Times reports that Republicans are increasingly worried that Trump’s candidacy could cost them the Senate and even possibly the House. The dilemma:

Some Republicans believe that, in Democratic-leaning or evenly matched states, Republican candidates are better off abandoning Mr. Trump because the party’s most reliable voters are still likely to go to the polls and support every Republican on the ballot. But…if the party collectively disavowed his candidacy now…the internecine intraparty battle likely to ensue could depress Republican turnout, dragging other candidates down with him.

Republican primary voters really have landed the party in a fix, haven’t they?

* WHY TRUMP IS TANKING IN MICHIGAN: Trump is in Michigan today, and Politico takes a deep dive into why he’s struggling so badly in the state:

He’s losing in some of the state’s Republican strongholds, including a stretch of Western Michigan that has long been the safest of GOP territories….Trump hasn’t been able to rally older men or whites, usually a reliable voting bloc for Republicans. “He’s running behind the Republican base and even among white, older men he’s not running as strong as he should be,” Michigan EPIC-MRA pollster Bernie Porn said.

The averages show Trump losing there by nearly eight points. But no worries, a massive army of working class whites will deliver the state to him, believe me.

* CLINTON EXPANDS LATINO OUTREACH: Ed O’Keefe reports that the Clinton campaign is quietly expanding its outreach to Latinos in places like Georgia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, Arizona, and Nevada:

The efforts in states such as Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania illustrate the extent to which Latinos are transforming electoral politics beyond competitive states such as Colorado, Florida and Nevada that they have long dominated….The Clinton campaign announced plans last week to invest more money and manpower in Georgia and Arizona, buoyed by recent surveys showing her trailing Trump by just single digits because of overwhelming Hispanic support.

What’s interesting here is that this might help Clinton expand the map just by building up Latino support on the margins in some states with both high (Nevada, Arizona) and low (Georgia) Latino populations.

* TRUMP GETTING OUTWORKED ON AIRWAVES: The Washington Examiner’s David Drucker reports that not only is Trump getting outspent, he’s getting bested in another key way, too:

Clinton is investing more efficiently. With a robust field and data analytics program, the former secretary of state’s campaign is maximizing her advertising dollar to reach specific voting blocs — and for less money. For instance, the granular level of data tracking on distinct demographics and individual voters allow a campaign to purchase inexpensive advertising time on programs that receive lower ratings overall but are highly watched by particular groups of people. The Trump campaign didn’t build a similarly sophisticated voter turnout operation.

But Trump’s awesome dominance of free media will offset this problem, so no worries.

* OBAMACARE HAS PROBLEM THAT CAN EASILY BE FIXED: Paul Krugman looks at Aetna pulling out of the exchanges and notes that the problem — the risk pool is older and sicker than expected — can easily be fixed:

It seems clear that subsidies for purchasing insurance, and in some cases for insurers themselves, should be somewhat bigger — an affordable proposition given that the program so far has come in under budget, and easily justified now that we know just how badly many of our fellow citizens needed coverage. There should also be a reinforced effort to ensure that healthy Americans buy insurance, as the law requires, rather than them waiting until they get sick. Such measures would go a long way toward getting things back on track.

And there’s also the public option, to provide competition and coverage where insurers don’t want to. But as Krugman notes, Congressional Republicans won’t participate in any fixes, because they want reform to fail.

 * AND THE SENATE MAP EXPANDS: This is a potentially significant ratings change from the Cook Political Report, just announced by Cook’s Jennifer Duffy:

North Carolina appears to be a lot more gettable for Dems this year, precisely because Trump is at the top of the ticket. This may now be broadening the Senate map, too.