Joe Biden isn't onstage this week as Republicans celebrate their presidential nominating convention. But his campaign is trying to make sure he's on TV.
That presence will come in the form of a two-minute television ad set to debut on broadcast and cable networks Thursday night, offering pricey counterprogramming intended to coincide with President Trump's renomination speech.
The spot largely focuses on a positive message from Biden to America, including his plan to recover from the pandemic, interspersed with details of his biography. And it portrays the 77-year-old candidate as a vibrant and quick-paced campaigner at a time when Republicans are trying to paint him as a washed-up politician who is showing his age.
"Some people are always in a hurry," a narrator says in the opening scene, over a montage of Biden riding a bike, walking away from an Air Force plane, preparing to go onstage and jogging up a ramp.
"When Joe Biden is president, America is just going to have to keep up," the narrator says, citing Biden's plan to deal with the novel coronavirus and proposals to help working families get ahead.
The spot is largely gauzy and high-minded, but it's not entirely Mr. Nice Guy, with some footage designed to trigger Trump on his big day even though the president is never mentioned by name.
At one point, as the narrator says that some people "race up steps when others take it slow" as a video shows Trump making an unsteady descent on a ramp after giving an address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in June. That's juxtaposed with video of Biden jogging up a similar ramp, from an address he gave at the academy.
(In case anyone misses the reference, a campaign news release accompanying the ad notes that the ad is being released as the general election "Ramps Up.")
Other references in the ad, which is set to run on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox News, are more subtle. Audio of Biden saying that America is an idea more powerful than any "dictator or tyrant" plays over a picture of Trump walking past police in riot gear near Lafayette Square after chemical irritants were deployed to clear protesters from the area before a presidential photo op.
And for the briefest moment, the ad features archival video of Trump dancing at a Mar-a-Lago party attended by Jeffrey Epstein — though Epstein is not in the snippet.
Biden's campaign has largely avoided trolling Trump, instead trying to stick with a message that Biden is a uniter who will heal the country. So the jabs at Trump — particularly his physical difficulties — represent a departure.
The ad also highlights more familiar fare, including tragedies that have occurred Biden's life. He lost his wife and young daughter in a 1972 car crash and an adult son to brain cancer in 2015 — and the ad connects his ability to overcome personal struggles with his optimism that the country can survive current crises.
"No one needs to tell Joe how hard life can hit you," the narrator says. "But he knows it's in the pain you can find purpose."
The ad will also run Friday through Sunday in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, part of the campaign's $26 million ad buy for the week of the Republican National Convention.
Annie Linskey is a national political reporter for The Washington Post focused on the 2020 presidential campaign. August 27, 2020.
Voices4America Post Script. While Trump rants and lies tonight on the #TrumpConvention, Joe Biden will speak to the American people, making a case for #BuildBackBetter and #Democracy. Read all about it here, and pass it on. #BlueVictory2020 #BidenHarris2020
Did I say, don't watch! Don't. Watch the ad here instead.
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