Monday, October 29, 2018


After I read CNN's breathless story about the Trump campaign's "closing ad" for the midterms, I was expecting something radical and jarring, or at least eye-catching. I'll grant that it's odd to see an ad from the president during a campaign in which he's not on the ballot.
Donald Trump busts through so many norms of politics that it shouldn't be surprising he is at it again this final full week of campaigning before the midterms -- launching a 2018 ad for Republicans, paid for and produced by his own 2020 campaign.
But the CNN story prepares us for a spot that will go down in advertising history:
It has echoes of Ronald Reagan's famous 1984 "Morning In America" re-election ad, which [Trump campaign chairman Brad] Parscale says he watched and considered ... but notes it has, "a lot more emotional hook and utilizing modern technology, what we've learned about making TV commercials on the commercial side of business."

It is in fact produced to be more Superbowl commercial than political ad....

He said the ad was developed over several months, which he argues they had the time and money to do with the Trump campaign up and running so early.

"Most political ads barely get a week or two. The way we did that is significant. That's more of how you do it in the commercial world. You really plan a product launch. In 2020 we have Trump 2.0, another product launch. It's the what are we going to do for four more years, and we have to be ready to sell that," Parscale explained.
I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't this:

This is just like every Mom-centric political ad ever, except for the specifics. There's no visual zing. There's certainly no Trumpian apocalypticism or conspiratorialism, as there was in the 2016 closing ad, which was all about evildoers trying to prevent Trump from saving America (George Soros, of course, makes an appearance as one of the principal malefactors, 21 seconds in):

There isn't even a sense that Trump is holding the bad guys at bay. It's as if the real terrors of the modern world and Trump's ginned-up boogeymen (and -women) don't exist.

What are Parscale and his crew up to? They know they're in deep trouble with female voters, but they seem to believe that some Republican women will come home to the party if given a gentle nudge. They have an obvious problem -- earlier this month CNN had a poll in which women favored a generic Democratic congressional candidate 63%/33%, and a more recent PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll shows Trump with 33%/61% approval/disapproval among women. Parscale apparently believes that some disaffected women can tune out the hate, anger, chaos, and literal bloodshed of the Trump era if you get them to think, "Gosh, that stock market is doing so well we can afford music school for little Jessica -- at least for now...."

But as a story in The New York Times noted over the weekend, women don't think the economy is terrific the way men do:
Nearly half of men — 47 percent — said their family’s finances had improved in the past year, according to a survey conducted for The New York Times in early October by the online research platform SurveyMonkey. Just 30 percent of women said the same....

Asked how they expected the American economy to fare over the next five years, nearly two-thirds of men said they anticipated “continuous good times economically.” Women were more likely to expect “periods of widespread unemployment or depression.” The gaps remain even between men and women who are similar in age, race, education and income....

Polls by the Pew Research Center going back to the mid-2000s showed almost no gender gap on economic questions until Mr. Trump took office; since then, men have become significantly more confident, while women’s confidence has stalled.

... partisanship explains part of the gender gap.... People who identify as Republicans and as supporters of Mr. Trump are far more likely to say the economy is performing well — and there are significantly more men than women in both groups.

Still, partisanship isn’t the whole story. Among men who said they “strongly approve” of Mr. Trump’s overall performance, 76 percent said their finances were better now than a year ago, according to the SurveyMonkey survey. That sentiment was expressed by just 65 percent of women who gave Mr. Trump strong overall marks. Other economic questions reveal a similar gap.

“Republican men are just more confident and more optimistic than even Republican women are,” said Laura Wronski, a research scientist for SurveyMonkey.
Does Parscale really believe that a bit of mansplaining (albeit with a female voiceover) can narrow this gap?

Maybe I'm wrong, but to me the ad seems weak, insipid, and ignorable. We'll see if it works.

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