Oct 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump launches multimillion-dollar ad campaign aimed at winning back seniors

President Donald Trump

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The Trump campaign is launching a new "eight-figure" advertising campaign this week that focuses, in part, on recovering President Trump's standing among senior citizens, according to top officials.

Why it matters: Senior citizens are the most reliable voting bloc and they formed the core of Trump's political base in 2016. But that's no longer the case.

  • One of the most important electoral trends of 2020 — a development that deeply concerns Trump advisers — is that many seniors have left Trump for Joe Biden. According to recent public polls, Biden has built up a 20-point lead over the president among voters aged 65 and older.

Behind the scenes: On a call Monday morning, senior Trump campaign officials were asked whether there was a path to 270 electoral votes without Trump receiving the strong support from seniors that he enjoyed in 2016.

  • Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien responded, "You're seeing really good, really strong advertising that we're out of the box with this week that has tremendous appeal to seniors."
  • "We know that, it's been tested, test off the charts, messaging that seniors want to see and it's being delivered to them. So whatever perceived slippage you're seeing in your numbers among seniors, I'm absolutely certain that it will be addressed."

After the call, Trump senior adviser Jason Miller sent me some examples of these ads that "test off the charts" with seniors and will be running in battleground states this week.

  • The first ad, "Carefully," defends Trump's handling of COVID-19 — a key concern for older voters. The ad features a clip of the government's top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci saying, "I can't imagine that ... anybody could be doing more." (Fauci has said that the campaign took his words out of context and that he didn't consent to appearing in the ad.)
  • The other ads, "Who's Better" and "Real Leadership," attack Biden on Social Security and Medicare, prescription drug costs, support for veterans, and his handling of terrorism, among other issues.

Between the lines: In response to the question about Trump's weak support among seniors, Stepien said, "I'm absolutely sure that there are some votes that we won't perform as well among in certain parts of the country or among certain voting populations."

  • "But I'm more than certain," Stepien added, "that those are going to be offset by gains in certain voting populations, Black, Hispanic and others, based on the president's appeal, policies and the outreach he's been conducting for the last four years."
  • Miller said the Trump campaign was also running ads this week on national networks that reach out to the African American and Hispanic communities.

The big picture: Miller said the campaign has bought national broadcast and cable advertising but will also be running targeted campaigns in 10 battleground states: Arizona, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Georgia, Minnesota, Michigan, Nevada and Maine's 2nd Congressional District.

  • Trump, who only 11 days ago announced that he tested positive for the coronavirus, is booked for a heavy week of campaign travel starting in Florida tonight.
  • "The president is eager to get back out there," Miller said. "The president even this morning in our morning conversation was getting on my case for not having enough rallies and public events scheduled."
  • "I expect to see him out there, at least in the short term, two to three events a day. That will even grow as we get closer to Election Day."
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