Apr 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: Biggest Trump super PAC test drives #BeijingBiden campaign

Screen grabs from America First Action's #BeijingBiden ad campaign
Screen grabs from America First Action's #BeijingBiden ad campaign.

A leading pro-Trump super PAC is testing a new ad campaign to paint Joe Biden as soft on China and redirect criticism of President Trump’s coronavirus response.

Driving the news: Beginning Friday, America First Action will spend $10 million in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — which yielded pivotal but bare victories for Trump in 2016 — to brand the presumptive Democratic nominee as “Beijing Biden” and see what sticks.

  • These states all have been impacted economically by China in terms of jobs, manufacturing or steel.

Why it matters: The ads come as Trump campaign officials lay plans to try to make the general election campaign more about the former vice president's past approaches to China than Trump's response to the coronavirus, or Trump's own approaches to China.

Details: The ads, previewed by Axios, are slightly different for each state, to target different audiences. They attack Biden for "his weakness" on China and globalist ideals, which the group charges led to "hundreds of thousands of jobs" being sent overseas.

  • Each ad shows a clip of Biden speaking at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, in 2011: “I believed in 1979 . . . and I believe now that a rising China is a positive development," he said.
  • A spokesperson for America First Action tells Axios that the PAC has already poll-tested these themes, and as the ads air will continue monitoring their performance.
  • The group is simultaneously unveiling a new website, "BeijingBiden.com," carrying opposition research that highlight's Biden's ties to China and China's failures in addressing the pandemic.

Andrew Bates, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign, told Axios: “Joe Biden called on Donald Trump to lead. He publicly urged him not to believe China's spin about the worst public health crisis in over 100 years, and to insist that our CDC experts be given access there.

  • “Instead, despite repeated warnings from our intelligence agencies and medical experts, Trump spent vital weeks praising China's response as successful and transparent while deceiving the American people about the extreme threat we faced and failing to prepare our country,“ Bates added.

By the numbers: The digital, cable, broadcast and mail campaign will continue until through the end of May. The breakdown:

  • Michigan: $2 million spent in the Traverse City, Flint and Grand Rapids media markets. This ad states that Biden "attacked" Trump over his January ban on travel to China, and shows Biden accusing Trump of "xenophobia and fear mongering.” (As fact checkers have pointed out, Biden made no reference to the China travel restrictions when making these comments and never said he opposed them).
  • Wisconsin: $2.7 million spent in the Wausau, La Crosse and Green Bay media markets. It has a greater focus on U.S. manufacturing jobs and how "America must stop" Chinese growth.
  • Pennsylvania: $5.5 million spent in the Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Johnstown, Erie and Wilkes-Barre media markets. It states that "China is killing our jobs, stealing technology, putting America’s health in danger," juxtaposed against a clip of Biden saying "They’re not bad folks."

Be smart: Beijing's flawed coronavirus response has exacerbated public outrage toward China.

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