With violent protests and riots chipping away at his poll numbers, Joe Biden has released a new ad condemning looting and “lawlessness.” His ad comes as the Trump campaign gears up to push similar but more extreme TV messages.
Since the killing of George Floyd in May triggered a summer of nationwide protests and riots, President Donald Trump has savaged Democrat mayors and governors for not cracking down hard enough on criminality, and roasted Joe Biden for his reluctance to condemn the violence strongly enough.
With reaction among Washington Democrats ranging from denial (Rep. Jerry Nadler called street violence in Portland a “myth,” for example) to outright encouragement, the riots finally appear to have hurt Biden’s polling, narrowing the gap between the former vice president and Trump to single digits.
Biden has now switched tack. In a campaign video released on Tuesday, the presidential hopeful declares that “Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. It’s lawlessness, plain and simple.” Biden accuses Trump of “fanning the flames” of violence, his supporters of “acting as an armed militia,” and his “divisive” rhetoric of instilling “fear in America.”
The ad does not directly call out the violence of Antifa rioters or Black Lives Matter supporters. Trump’s often-armed supporters, like those who turned up and faced off against rioters in Kenosha, Wisconsin – claiming they were there to protect property – are the only group of citizens criticized for violence.
Nevertheless it is the strongest ‘law and order’ statement from Biden to date. It will be aired in key battleground states this month as part of a $53 million TV spending push. The Trump campaign has spent a similar amount of cash, with around $49 million worth of TV airtime booked for September, according to a recent CNN report.
Trump’s latest ads hit the airwaves on Wednesday. One ad, which will air in the riot-hit state of Wisconsin, paints Biden’s response to the riots as weak, taking a knee in support of BLM while “lawless criminals terrorize Kenosha.” A similar ad focuses on Minneapolis, where rioting first kicked off in May.
Trump, by contrast, is portrayed as a “strong” leader, whose mobilization of federal resources in Wisconsin and Minnesota saved these Democrat-run states from further anarchy.
Another ad set to air in a number of battleground states accuses Democrats of “fanning the flames of lawlessness,” while portraying Trump as the guardian of America’s “hopes and values and faith.”
According to an NBC poll released in mid-August, Trump leads Biden 43-39 percent on fighting crime, though it is still unknown how the destruction of Kenosha may have changed that figure. In a visit to the Kenosha on Tuesday, Trump kept his rhetoric strong, standing amid the ruins of the city’s businesses, the president called the recent spate of riots “domestic terrorism,” and pledged his support to the nation’s law enforcement.
Biden will visit Kenosha on Thursday, though he is unlikely to directly ape Trump’s unequivocal pro-law enforcement stance. Instead, his campaign said that he will “hold a community meeting in Kenosha to bring together Americans to heal and address the challenges we face.”