Even with the country largely at a standstill amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic, election year politics are intensifying as the general election matchup has come into clearer focus.
The main super PAC backing President Trump’s reelection bid Wednesday announced a $10-million ad buy that will target former Vice President Joe Biden, who has a significant delegate lead in the Democratic nomination fight, in three key states: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
America First Action will start airing digital, cable, broadcast ads in mid-April that will run through May.
“It’s time to put Sleepy Joe Biden to bed,” said Brian O. Walsh, America First Action PAC’s president, in a statement that promised additional rounds of ads in the months ahead. “By the time November rolls around, voters in battleground states are going to know why Joe Biden is weak, wrong and been around for too long to lead the United States of America.”
The group’s first major spending effort of the campaign cycle, which will also include direct mail, comes in response to weeks of ads from Democratic outside groups and Biden’s campaign that have aimed to build a case against the president’s shifting and at times self-contradicting response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The new ads are at least partly a response to complaints by a number of Republican operatives and Trump backers that the organization has been too slow to act, leaving the president without political cover as he has been forced to cancel campaign rallies and focus his public appearances on leading the government’s coronavirus response.
Recent polls have shown Trump’s standing with the public improving somewhat during the coronavirus crisis, although he has enjoyed much less of a rally-round-the-leader boost than prominent governors or officials in other countries such as Great Britain or Germany. The same polls have continued to show Biden leading by at least a small margin in head-to-head matchups.
One Trump ally familiar with the super PAC, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the group has been too lax but welcomed the news of the ad buy targeting Biden.
“Biden is a mistake machine. He looks so feckless right now,” the person said. "[It’s] time for the PAC to highlight it, the contrast versus Trump as commander.
“The whole reason for an outside group like America First is to attack the opponent relentlessly.”
More than half of the spending will target Pennsylvania, with $5.5 million going toward the Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Johnstown, Erie and Wilkes-Barre media markets — areas of the state that have traditionally leaned Democratic but where Trump did well in 2016.
In Michigan, the $2 million in spending will target voters in Traverse City, Flint and Grand Rapids.
And in Wisconsin, the group will put $2.7 million into ads aimed at the Wausau, La Crosse and Green Bay markets.
In response, one of the main Democratic groups supporting Biden, Priorities USA, announced it was throwing an additional $1 million behind its initial $6.6 million buy in those states as well as Florida and extending its ads by an additional week.
“Trump is failing the country as a leader during the biggest crisis of our lives. It has always been inevitable that the Trump team would attempt to cover up his dangerous incompetence by attacking Joe Biden,” said Guy Cecil, the group’s chairman.
“With Donald Trump’s super PAC stepping into this race, we will not let Vice President Biden go undefended. We will do whatever we can to both hold Trump accountable during this time of crisis and help Joe Biden get elected in November.”