Less than three seconds into an ad for President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, Brad Parscale repeats a claim his boss makes regularly: “President Trump has achieved more during his time in office than any president in history.” Visuals flash on screen of Trump signing legislation in the Oval Office and applauding during the swearing-in ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.
Then, Parscale, the president’s 2020 campaign manager, asks Trump supporters to call their commander in chief to give thanks for all the work he’s done, according to a video of a TV ad shared Monday night.
“That is why I need every Trump supporter to pick up a phone right now and deliver a personal thank you to your president,” says Parscale, wearing an electric blue suit with a matching tie and “Thin Blue Line” flag lapel pin in support of the “Blue Lives Matter” movement.
But really, Parscale continues, call and say thank you to Trump.
“We need to let President Trump know that we appreciate what he’s doing for America,” he says later in the ad. “I need you to call the number on your screen and deliver a thank you to President Trump.”
The video of the ad was first shared by journalist Yashar Ali shortly before 9 p.m. Monday. As of early Tuesday, the video has been viewed on Twitter more than 127,000 times.
Ali tweeted that the ad ran on CNN, though it’s unclear whether the campaign spot was seen on its national broadcast or if it ran locally. Ali told The Washington Post that he saw the ad in the Southern California area toward the end of “Anderson Cooper 360.” Parscale and CNN did not immediately return requests for comment.
The campaign spot is one of the first indications of what the president’s reelection campaign might look like against whomever emerges from the Democratic field to challenge him in 2020. The timing of the ad comes less than two years into his presidency, and also during a stretch in which almost every organization Trump has led in the last 10 years is under investigation.
In a one-minute ad littered with visuals of factory workers, campaign events and the American flag, Parscale, 42, touts “a booming economy” and “historic low unemployment.” When he adds that the jobs situation under Trump includes “the lowest unemployment rate for minorities in history,” an image of a black female factory employee hard at work pops up on the screen.
Toward the end of the ad, which shows an excited Trump gazing at falling confetti from a Christmas-themed rally in Florida last year, a trio of supporters each offer an enthusiastic, “Thank you, President Trump!”
“President Trump needs to hear from his supporters,” a narrator says in a booming voice.
As is customary for campaign ads, Trump’s voice comes on at the end to say that he approves the message, with text underneath that reads, “Paid for by Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.”
So, what happens when someone calls the number listed in the ad? A prompt urges you to state your name and leave a brief message for the president, thanking him for his work. Then Parscale appeals for donations to Trump’s campaign. He again praises the strength of the economy, citing “lower regulations, massive tax cuts and renegotiated trade deals that put America first.”
After talking about how “enforcing our immigration laws are making Americans safer,” Parscale takes another page out of Trump’s playbook and points his attention toward the media and Democrats.
“But President Trump is under vicious, daily attacks from the fake news media and far-left Democrats who want to implement the radical socialist agenda,” Parscale continues in the recording. “They will stop at nothing to overturn the election and remove your president from office.”
Callers are given a prompt that allows them to choose to donate (press 1) or continue (press 2). If they choose to continue instead of donating, Parscale comes back on the line and pleads his case one more time.
“I understand a contribution is a lot to ask for, but President Trump is asking for your support now, before it’s too late,” he urges. “We must protect the Trump presidency for the American people.”
While it’s rare for an incumbent or candidate, let alone a sitting president, to prominently feature a member of their campaign staff in a political ad, it isn’t totally unprecedented. When it happened in 2011, in fact, the TV spot went viral. Mark Block, the chief of staff for Herman Cain’s 2012 presidential campaign, made his case for his candidate’s place as the Republican nominee in an impassioned address that ended with a close-up shot of him smoking a cigarette. The ad concluded with another tight shot of a grinning Cain with “I Am America,” an anti-establishment anthem popular with the tea party at the time, playing as the screen faded to black.
Even before Cain’s failed attempt to win the 2012 GOP nomination, Block’s smoking shot would become one of the most bizarre, and viral, ads in the history of presidential campaigns. “Never thought twice about the fact that I smoke,” Block told the Sacramento Bee in 2012, calling the ad “historic.”
Some Trump critics and pundits were quick to mock Parscale and Trump’s new ad on Twitter.
Rick Wilson, the Republican political strategist and prominent Never Trump pundit, suggested another line that didn’t make the thank-you ad.
“Also, ‘And ladies, if you’re hot, leave little sumthing in Don’s voicemail,' ” Wilson tweeted.