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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Trump's Self-Destructive Reaction to "Mourning in America"

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well under  way.   

At WP,   Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports on Trump's self-destructive reaction to The Lincoln Project's "Mourning in America."
The group’s ad, called “Mourning in America,” criticizes Trump’s handling of the pandemic, focusing on the skyrocketing unemployment rate and death toll. “If we have another four years like this, will there even be an America?” asks the narrator.

After the group spent just $10,000 to produce the commercial and $5,000 to run it in the Washington market on Fox News, the ad went viral. On Thursday, Joe Biden’s campaign released a new ad with a similar message and tone.

Within days, the Lincoln Project received about $2 million from 25,000 new donors — money it is now using to air the spot in three battleground states, super-PAC officials said.

We were trying to reach one person. It was $5,000 well spent,” said John Weaver, a strategist for then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign who also worked on Sen. John McCain’s White House bids in 2000 and 2008. “The ad was great. It spoke the truth. But sometimes, you have to be lucky, too.”

At LAT, Reed Galen talked to Seema Mehta:
“It’s one of these things where you work hard, and you have an idea, and sometimes it all comes to fruition,” he said. “I would be lying if I said it does not seem surreal to be sitting in bed and watching the president of the United States trash you and your friends and spell your name wrong.”
It was the most attention the Lincoln Project had received. The political action committee was formed by a small group of Republican strategists with ties to politicians such as former President George W. Bush, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the late Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Several have ties to California. They have endorsed Democrat Joe Biden for president....
They had a relatively small budget and are largely unknown by the general public, though their anti-Trump efforts have garnered some headlines.
Trump’s tweets launched them into a new stratosphere. Their videos typically receive several hundred thousand views; “Mourning in America” has been watched by more than 16 million people. Between Nov. 5 and March 31, the group raised under $2.6 million; in less than a week since the ad’s debut, they raised more than $2 million. The group plans to use the money to air the ad in Wisconsin, Florida and Ohio this week.
https://twitter.com/ProjectLincoln/status/1257348720988913666?s=20 
“From our perspective, half a million views was pretty good for a bunch of guys on a pirate ship, doing all the work themselves,” Galen said. But now, “it’s taken on a life of its own. That’s the thing he did, frankly. He gets you from the Twitterverse to the real world. People who otherwise may not have heard of us for days, weeks, or ever now know we exist. And it benefits us.
At The Washingtonian, Rick Wilson talks to Jane Recker:
The moment we saw Trump besmirching and befouling the Lincoln Memorial for his campaign interview, we knew we were going to launch this ad. We took a classic Republican trope — the Reagan “Morning in America” ad — and inverted it. “Morning in America” was so powerful in 1984 because it captured what was really happening in the country. It wasn’t Reagan trying to convince people the economy was good, they felt it, they knew it, they believed it.
If you put out a message that doesn’t ring true, the ad doesn’t work. Trump put out a spot earlier in the week about the American comeback. I didn’t have to put it in front of a focus group to know that, unless they were a hardcore Trump supporter, people would look at it and go, “that’s not the America I’m living in. I’m living in an America where we have Great Depression unemployment levels, where by the end of this month close to 100,000 people will be dead of a disease we could have mitigated.” And so we captured that cultural moment [in “Mourning in America”]. That’s why it upset Trump so much: He knows this is what America is really feeling and thinking right now.