Politics: Trump's ad strategy targeting senior citizens: I recovered from COVID-19 and so can America

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In one of President Donald Trump’s latest television ads, he emerges from Walter Reed Medical Center after his hospitalization to treat COVID-19 with his right fist raised. He then waves while walking across the White House lawn. A shop owner turns a sign on the door from “closed” to “open.”

“President Trump is recovering from the coronavirus and so is America,” the narrator says. “President Trump tackled the virus head on, as leaders should.”

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The ad sparked controversy after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, called for it to be taken down because of a clip that was taken out of context.

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Following the clip about Trump's leadership, Fauci is shown saying, "I can't imagine that anybody could be doing more." The comment, in fact, was referring to the work of the coronavirus task force, not the job the president was doing.

Trump revisited the coronavirus theme in online ads, including one on Facebook that showed him speaking from the White House.

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“Don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it,” said Trump, who suggested he might be immune. “You’re going to beat it.”

The ads highlighted a priority in Trump's campaign advertising: responding to Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who has criticized the president as reckless and incompetent in handling the virus that so far killed 215,000 Americans dead and forced 30 million to file for unemployment.

Campaign advertising is one of the ways that candidates can reach voters most directly, with detailed messages tailored for specific voters. The Biden campaign's fundraising advantage allowed the challenger to buy double or triple the television ads in key battlegrounds while outspending Trump nationwide. But advertising won't necessarily dictate the winner, as Trump demonstrated in 2016 when Democrat Hillary Clinton outspent him.

Biden has spent $223 million airing television ads 356,366 times since April 9, according to the Wesleyan Media Project. For comparison, Trump spent $161 million on 261,633 airings during the same period, the study found.

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During September, Biden spent $153 million on television and radio ads, nearly tripling Trump’s $57 million, according to Advertising Analytics. But outside groups narrowed the difference to $189 million supporting Biden and $127 million supporting Trump, according to Advertising Analytics. Trump is also able to get his message out for free through televised rallies and speeches.

The gap narrowed as the campaigns head to the finish line, but Biden kept a significant advantage. From Sept. 28 through Oct. 11, Biden’s campaign spent nearly $56 million to air television ads 80,000 times while Trump’s campaign spent nearly $32 million to air ads 32,000 times, according to the Wesleyan study.

Donald Trump standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: President Donald Trump removes his face mask to speak from the Blue Room Balcony of the White House to a crowd of supporters on Oct. 10, 2020, in Washington. © Alex Brandon, AP President Donald Trump removes his face mask to speak from the Blue Room Balcony of the White House to a crowd of supporters on Oct. 10, 2020, in Washington.

Trump’s most prolific television ad last week said he “delivered the impossible” and would continue to fight the country’s reliance on China, eradicate the coronavirus and make medicines in the U.S. Trump also set a goal of creating 10 million jobs in 10 months.

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“This is President Trump’s vision of America, one of boundless optimism and certainty in America’s greatness,” said the ad that aired more than 10,000 times during the week ending Oct. 9, according to the tracking firm Advertising Analytics.

The ad highlighted common themes in Trump’s campaign advertising. The president mentioned jobs in 53% of his ads, infectious diseases in 47% and China in 44%, according to the Wesleyan analysis of the ads.

Two of the president's latest broadcast and cable ads released Monday attack Biden. One shows Mount Rushmore while saying Trump brought "real leadership," in contrast to "endless wars" and a "broken" Department of Veterans Affairs under the Obama administration. The other claims Biden would violate the Second Amendment with unconstitutional gun control measures.

Another television ad released Saturday accused Biden of planning to raise taxes. The ad was paired with an ad that said Trump is recovering from the coronavirus and so is America. The ad says Trump protected seniors and is sparing no expense to develop life-saving drugs.

"We'll live carefully, but not afraid," the ad says.

Trump also promoted his nominee to the Supreme Court during the week before Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings. The ad described her as a constitutional conservative, proud Christian and mother of seven, while warning that the “radical left” would try to block her by questioning her faith and family.

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In online ads, Trump has outpaced Biden throughout the campaign, although the challenger is catching up in the closing weeks. Trump has spent $165.8 million on ads on Facebook and Google since mid-April and $33.8 million since late September, according to the Wesleyan study. For comparison, Biden spent $130.1 million on online ads since mid-April and $34.7 million since late September, according to the study.

Trump’s Google ads tend to target the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Arizona, Florida and parts of Michigan, while also appearing in states with key Senate races such as Maine, Iowa, and parts of Ohio, Nevada and Minnesota.

Common themes in the ads attack Biden as a pawn of China and as mentally unreliable. One ad has a picture of Biden holding a Chinese flag and says he would prefer to depend on that country for manufacturing. Another ad depicts Biden with a twist on the traditional campaign language saying, “I’m Joe Biden and I forgot this message.”

On Facebook, the Trump campaign attacked Biden for accomplishing nothing during “FOUR DECADES in the Washington swamp. “He’s just a washed-up, career politician being used as a PAWN by the Radical Left,” the ad states. “Yikes. Does that sound like someone who’s ready to lead a Country?

Trump’s campaign also emphasizes Vice President Mike Pence, from his debate Oct. 7, assailing Sen. Kamala Harris of California for voting against a trade deal with Canada and Mexico that Pence said was “huge win” for automobile manufacturers and farmers. Pence said Harris put her radical climate agenda of workers.

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Heading into the final three weeks of the campaign, Trump ads on Facebook warn "we cannot let Joe Biden win" and "we must stand against the extreme radical left."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump's ad strategy targeting senior citizens: I recovered from COVID-19 and so can America

Donald Trump made many promises in 2016 and early in his term. Which has he kept and what is he still working on? .
Trump has kept a number of pledges, including tax cuts and conservative judges. But not on others such as bringing back coal and replacing Obamacare."Unlike so many who came before me, I keep my promises," Trump said during his State of the Union speech this year.

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