Why Trump Is Absent From His Own TV Ad


President Trump’s closing election-season argument is to white suburban women, so he can’t be the one to make it.

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A video still taken from the ad, which features images that speak to the financial considerations that drive middle-class families’ lives, such as the ability to afford a home.
Julie Hirschfeld Davis

President Trump’s re-election campaign announced on Monday that it would spend $6 million to air a new television ad throughout the country in the run-up to next week’s midterm congressional elections, “making the closing sale to vote” Republican. But Mr. Trump is not the one making this particular sale. Neither he, his likeness nor his voice appears in the spot.

That’s because Mr. Trump is unpopular with the group of voters his campaign is apparently trying to target at this critical stage in the race: white, college-educated women, who recent polls have shown disproportionately view him negatively, and are also disinclined to vote for Republicans.

The gauzy, 60-second ad features a professional white woman who appears to live in the suburbs, reflecting on the strength of the economy and fretting that “this could all go away” as she hesitates, then casts a ballot for a Republican.

The commercial is striking for its substantive and tonal differences from Mr. Trump’s closing argument in raucous rallies throughout the country, where his incendiary comments about the dangers of immigration and crime are meant to stoke fears that drive his most ardent supporters to the polls to vote for Republicans. While those messages have been shown to appeal to white voters without college educations, older women and some independents, they fail to resonate with a group of educated women whose votes could be critical in the contest to control Congress.

And here are the ways — some of them misleading — that the Trump campaign is targeting white suburban women.

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The ad opens with a woman getting her young daughter ready for school, as her television is tuned to a cable news report showing that the unemployment rate has fallen to 3.8 percent, its lowest point in 18 years. The clip is from a report aired on CNN, the network the president frequently denounces as “Fake News,” but you wouldn’t know it from this ad. The “CNN” bug that appears in the corner of the screen during newscasts is whited out and blank.

Viewers are next reminded of worse economic times, when joblessness soared as the reverberations of the financial crisis rippled through the economy. A map of the United States with an illustration of an unemployment line on one side and a giant 9.7 percent next to an arrow bouncing upward recalls the dark days of January 2010 and suggests that joblessness was rising. There is no mention of the fact that the rate fell precipitously over the subsequent months and years, ending at 4.7 percent when President Barack Obama left office.

The ad is punctuated with images that speak to the financial considerations that drive middle-class families’ lives, such as the ability to afford a home — or maybe purchase a bigger one — or pay for a child’s music lessons. In the beginning, a tidy home is shown with an American flag in front and a “For Sale” sign on the lawn. Later, the woman is seen with her family toting boxes into a larger house marked with a “SOLD” sign. Throughout the commercial, the daughter is seen practicing her violin, and at the end, the scene flashes forward several years to show her performing onstage to loud applause. All, the message seems to be, because Mom voted Republican in 2018.

“Look, we can’t get distracted from the biggest issue, which are jobs and our kids’ future,” the woman hears a man say on the radio as she drives past a sign in her well-manicured neighborhood that says “Vote Republican.” (No, there is no actual name of any candidate on the sign, which is the case for exactly zero percent of political signs one week before Election Day.) The statement almost seems like a plea for voters to discard the kind of political division that Mr. Trump relishes in favor of more practical concerns.

This is the closing argument section of the ad, in which the woman arrives at her polling place and — about to fill in her ballot by hand — reflects for a moment on whom she should choose. She hesitates, an apparent nod to the fact that many voters are torn, as the narrator reminds her what is at stake. “This could all go away,” a voice intones, “if we don’t remember what we came from.”

When she makes her choice for the fictional Republican candidate, the woman fills in the bubble for “Tamara Tucker,” rather than the Democratic name below, “William Cody.” Republicans are just like you, the advertisement is telling women, so vote for them.



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