PHILADELPHIA -- It may seem as if politics has come to a halt these days -- until you turn on the television. Several Democratic political action committees have bought millions of dollars of airtime in Pennsylvania to slam President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus crisis amid a national moment of fear and frustration.
The groups are specifically targeting the battleground states Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan to call out Trump's early downplaying of the severity of the virus and actions they say have put the nation at further risk.
"This campaign right now is a referendum on how the president is going to handle this horrible situation and how it bleeds into the economy, and nothing else matters," said Neil Oxman, a Democratic political strategist based in Philadelphia. "The criticism is real enough that you don't ignore it, you're not gonna let him slide. You try to freeze people's minds on the fact that this guy denied it, called it a hoax. You just drill it in as hard as you can."
Democratic groups have spent more than $6 million to air television and radio ads that began March 16 and reserving airtime through June 30.
Priorities USA has spent $5 million in the Keystone State. One of the group's ads features sound bites of Trump calling the virus a hoax and assuring the cases will soon reach zero as a graph of the number of actual cases rises dramatically. Another juxtaposes clips of Trump with one of Democratic front-runner Joe Biden.
The ads are targeted at parts of Pennsylvania with more independent voters and where Trump did well in 2016: the Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Johnstown-Altoona media markets, with a small investment in Philadelphia.
Unite the Country, a PAC that supports Biden, debuted an ad showing Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Barack Obama rising to meet crises, while asserting Trump has not met his. "Donald Trump didn't create the coronavirus, but he is the one who called hoax, who eliminated the pandemic response team, and who let the virus spread unchecked across America," the voice-over says. "Crisis comes to every president. This one failed."
Unite the Country and Protect Our Care, a coalition pushing for the expansion of the Affordable Care Act, spent or committed $1 million in Pennsylvania.
%22https://www.inquirer.com/health/coronavirus/russian-trolls-elections-vaccines-coronavirus-2020-trump-20200331.html%22According to data from Advertising Analytics, there has been no spending for TV or radio by a Republican campaign or GOP-affiliated PAC in the last month in Pennsylvania.
America First Action, a pro-Trump PAC, announced Wednesday it will defend the president with a $10 million digital, TV and mail ad buy painting Biden as "Sleepy Joe" starting in mid-April and running through May. More than $5 million will go toward ads in Pennsylvania, it said.