“He’s no Mr. Nice Guy, but sometimes it takes a Donald Trump to change Washington,” the ad declared to viewers during the Washington Nationals’ title-clinching win over the Houston Astros. Fans gathered for the viewing party at Nationals Park booed as the pro-Trump commercial played on the stadium’s Jumbotron. Among political operatives and observers, many noted the video’s unprecedented timing and reach, as it was watched by millions of Americans on TV and on Twitter.
In buying expensive national ad space for an unspecified seven-figure sum more than a year ahead of the 2020 election, the Trump reelection campaign is mounting an earlier and arguably more aggressive bid to stay in office than past incumbent administrations.
Although this year’s World Series was on track to be the least-watched in the history of the televised contest, an average of 11.6 million viewers tuned in to watch the first five games, ESPN reported on Tuesday. On Twitter, where the commercial was later posted by Trump’s campaign manager and the president’s Twitter account, the ad was viewed nearly 2 million times as of early Thursday.
David Plouffe, the former campaign manager and senior White House adviser to President Barack Obama, called the ad “quite strong.”
“National TV ads in October of off year — unprecedented,” he wrote in a tweet.
The latter half of the ad lashed out at Trump’s political rivals for focusing on what it called “phony investigations” related to the ongoing impeachment inquiry, while showing quick clips of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.). The ad also briefly shows former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
“The Democrats would rather focus on impeachment and phony investigations,” the ad said, “ignoring the real issues.”
Critics quickly questioned the veracity of the campaign’s claim about Trump’s record on immigration.
The ad boasts that Trump has cut “illegal immigration in half.” The quick shots of the president shaking hands with Border Patrol agents and talking to construction workers — clear visual references to his plan to build a wall at the southern border — also include an attribution to a Sept. 10 Fox News interview with a top immigration official.
In that interview, Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told Fox News last month that the Trump administration had halved apprehensions at the border over a three-month period. But that decrease came after a sharp uptick earlier this year, which saw the highest levels of apprehensions of the Trump presidency so far, according to Customs and Border Protection data. Illegal immigration has significantly declined since 2000, when the number of apprehensions at the southern border peaked at 1.6 million, The Washington Post reported in a fact check of Trump’s January address on immigration.
Other observers noted Trump’s team was quick to use declassified photos and footage from a recent strike against the Islamic State. The ad refers to the recent death of Islamic State commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and boasts that Trump deserves credit for “obliterating ISIS — their caliphate destroyed, their terrorist leader dead."
The ad’s reference to Baghdadi’s death comes as military experts remain hesitant in declaring the Islamic State defeated. Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie Jr., who heads the U.S. Central Command, told reporters Wednesday the terrorist group is likely to eventually “reestablish someone to lead the organization,” The Post’s Missy Ryan reported.
The president and pro-Trump committees that support his reelection raised a record-setting $105 million over three months earlier this year. Trump’s reelection campaign can afford early and pricey national ad buys because the incumbent now has a historically large war chest, The Post reported earlier this month.
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told The Post the World Series ad buy, which will include other national TV spots yet to air, was a seven-figure purchase. He acknowledged the aggressive strategy of playing political ads for a national audience more than a year before Americans will vote for their next president.
“It’s 12 months out,” Murtaugh said, “and we are on offense.”