A series of Democratic super PACs, led by Priorities USA, and former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign have begun to weaponize President Donald Trump’s comment that he urged his staff to slow coronavirus testing.
Trump, during a rally on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said that in an effort to keep the known number of Americans infected with the coronavirus down, he urged his staff to “slow the testing down.”The comment immediately drew the attention of Democrats, who believe the best way to attack Trump ahead of the November election is to cast his response to the coronavirus as a failure.
Priorities USA will on Tuesday air a television ad featuring the comment in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, four key battleground states.
“The most important job of a president is to protect the American people, but not to Donald Trump,” a narrator says before Trump says the quote as it flashes on screen. “That’s right. Instead of working to slow the spread, Donald Trump says he slowed down the testing. Now, over 120,000 dead.”
The 30-second spot goes on to highlight how the United States has struggled to match the response of other countries.
“Donald Trump is making it all worse,” the narrator says. “He is failing America.”
Priorities USA, the preferred super PAC for the Biden campaign, says it is spending around $2 million a week on television and digital ads, and this latest spot – titled “Slow the Testing” – will be worked into the series of ads they have been running against Trump.
The super PAC will also begin running a digital ad – titled “Testing” – that features multiple comments Trump has made about testing leading to negative outcomes.
“What he admitted to in Tulsa is nothing short of a tragedy,” Guy Cecil, the head of Priorities USA, said in a statement about the new ads. “Donald Trump made it clear that he ordered a slowdown of coronavirus testing to protect his own ego.”
White House officials have looked to blunt the impact of the comment by saying the President was joking, with White House trade adviser Peter Navarro telling CNN on Sunday that it was a “tongue in cheek” remark. Trump, however, has long dismissed testing efforts, including telling the Wall Street Journal that “testing is overrated.”
Priorities USA is not the only Democratic group moving to amplify Trump’s comment, however.
American Bridge, another Democratic super PAC, began running a digital ad featuring the remark in swing states on Sunday. The ad features Trump’s comment, interspersed with news reports on the initial government inaction on coronavirus and a quote from top doctor Anthony Fauci telling CNN, if “you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives.”
“Tonight, Donald Trump said the quiet part out loud,” said Kyle Morse, an American Bridge spokesperson. “He rolled the dice on our health with deadly consequences, and we will make sure voters know we cannot afford four more years of his disastrous policies and failed leadership.”
And a Biden campaign aide told CNN on Saturday night, shortly after the comment, that they planned to work the President’s comments into their digital ad rotation. The campaign released a Twitter video on Sunday that played Trump’s comment over headlines about the number of coronavirus deaths.
Trump, eager to get back onto the campaign trail, planned the Tulsa rally as an event aimed at re-energizing his campaign after a months-long hiatus from public campaigning. Trump aides touted what they expected to be a massive turnout ahead of the event, but those numbers failed to materialize on Saturday, leaving Trump fuming about the number of empty seats at what he hoped would be a triumphant return to the campaign trail.
Democrats welcomed Trump’s return, too, believing that the more Trump talks about the coronavirus response, the more content he provides them for endless attack ads.
“At this point,” Cecil tweeted on Saturday night after Trump’s comment, “our ads are writing themselves.”