Anti-Trump ‘Mourning in America’ Ads Hit Airwaves in Midwest

President Donald Trump talks with reporters after attending a campaign rally in Latrobe, Pa., on Sept. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(CN) — With the Nov. 3 presidential election looming in a matter of days, a group of conservatives rallying against the reelection of President Trump launched an ad campaign Wednesday in the battleground states of Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania that plays on an iconic Republican ad.

Video ads sponsored by the Lincoln Project borrow the “Morning in America” line used in 1984 by Ronald Reagan, which Ad Age describes as “one of the most famous political ads of the modern era.” Except that these ads substitute “mourning” for “morning.”

Under Trump’s leadership, the ads say, people in these states are mourning because they are “weaker and sicker and poorer” as a result of Trump’s failures to contain the spread of Covid-19.

The Lincoln Project was founded in December and announced in a New York Times op-ed headlined, “We are Republicans, and we want Trump defeated.”

The project’s founders include Washington lawyer and Washington Post contributing columnist George Conway, who also happens to be married to former Trump White House adviser Kellyanne Conway. It also counts former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele among its senior advisers.

The ads use the same script in each state. The Pennsylvania video, for example, says: “There’s mourning in Pennsylvania. Today, hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from a deadly virus Donald Trump ignored, praising China’s response instead of heeding the warnings—then blaming them to cover his own failures. With the economy in shambles, people across Pennsylvania are still out of work—one of the worst economies in decades.”

It continues, “This afternoon, millions of Americans will apply for unemployment. And with their savings run out, many are giving up hope. Millions worry that a loved one won’t survive Covid-19. There’s mourning in Pennsylvania, and under the leadership of Donald Trump, our state is weaker and sicker and poorer. And now, Americans are asking, if we have another four years like this, will there even be an America?”

It’s hard to gauge how effective these sorts of ads are at this state of the presidential campaign.

Matthew R. Kerbel, professor of political science at Villanova University in Philadelphia, told Courthouse News on Wednesday it may speak to many voters.

“This ad campaign speaks directly to the daily experience of a large portion of the electorate. By invoking Reagan’s ‘Morning in America’ ad, it targets older Republican voters who will remember the 1980s and implicitly invites them to contrast the leadership of two Republican presidents,” Kerbel said. “This is the Lincoln Project’s target audience – Republicans who can be persuaded not to vote with their party. There are very few undecided voters left at this stage of the campaign, but if the Lincoln Project is effective at the margins it could make a big difference in a close state like Iowa.”

Political science professor Dennis Goldford at Drake University in Des Moines said he doubts the ads will have much impact.

“How many persuadable people are out there?” he wonders. Still, while the percentage of Republican voters who could be persuaded to switch and vote against Trump at this point may be small, he said “even a feather on the scale makes a difference.”

Three founders of the Lincoln Project also penned an op-ed in Tuesday’s Washington Post urging conservatives to vote against Trump, saying the “nation’s soul” is at risk. The opinion piece asks Republicans if they prefer a republic “or an autocracy,” citing the president’s refusal to commit to accepting the results of the election.

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