Television advertisements promoting various Senate and House races have one thing in common — they aren’t mentioning President Donald Trump.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the president is mentioned or shown in only 6% of the more than 771,000 general-election ads on broadcast TV stations, according to an analysis by ad tracker Kantar/CMAG.
The analysis noted that Trump’s absence is a change from when President Barack Obama was running for reelection in 2012. Then-President Obama was featured in about one out of every five general-election ads, according to the report. A majority of the ads were run by GOP candidates who ripped Obamacare.
But Democrats aren’t taking the same attack approach against Trump in their ads, according to The Journal. Dems will criticize the president during interviews and appearances, but they are promoting policy in their ad spots. Commercials discuss the coronavirus pandemic, jobs, health care, and government spending, according to the analysis.
Republicans are also staying away from mentioning Trump in ads that could reach swing voters, according to The Journal. CMAG noted that there were more pro-Trump commercials run by Republicans at this point in time during the 2018 midterms.
“The ads are the ultimate tell,” said Ken Goldstein, a University of San Francisco professor who has studied political ads for about three decades. “There’s a realization that in a general election, very few people don’t have their minds made up about Trump. For Democrats, there is nothing they can do to fuel Trump anger, and for Republicans, there is nothing they can do to mitigate it.”
During this election cycle, less than 4% of GOP ads include positive mentions of Trump. During the primary season, 42% of ads mentioned the president favorable.
Candidates who featured Trump before are now staying away.
Jim Bognet, a former Trump administration official trying to flip a northeastern Pennsylvania U.S. House seat, finished his GOP primary campaign with an ad that showed him on a football field, saying, “President Trump fights for us, but he needs teammates.”
In the general election, Bognet said voters know where he stands on Trump, and that his Democrat opponent, Rep. Matt Cartwright, voted to impeach the president.
“I’d rather tell people things they don’t know about Matt Cartwright’s policies and record and introduce myself to voters,” Bognet told The Journal.
Democrats are spending more time on topics like healthcare than they are attacking Trump, according to the analysis. Some are even showing the president in a positive light.
In Michigan, Sen. Gary Peters has run an ad showing how he worked with the Trump administration to address what the ad says are unfair trade practices affecting the state’s cherry growing industry. “Gary even went directly to President Trump in the White House,” a cherry grower in the ad says.
Democrat ads are about four times as likely to mention Trump favorably as they are to refer to Joe Biden in a positive light.
Just one candidate, Dana Balter, who is running for a House seat in New York, talks up Biden in an ad, according to the report.
According to CMAG, Biden appears in about 3% of all ad spots, which is typical for a challenger at this time in the race.
The CMAG analysis for The Wall Street Journal included the content of all TV ads on broadcast television paid for by candidates, parties, and outside groups in all Senate and House races.
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