When Donald Trump’s campaign recently unveiled its first television ad of the general election, it focused entirely on immigrants, refugees, and terrorists – but that wasn’t necessarily the original plan. Politico reported that just a few days before the ad launched, aides to the Republican ticket determined their first spot would be devoted to “an economic message.”
A day later, without explanation, the campaign changed direction.
This morning, however, Team Trump unveiled its second ad, and this time, the economy really is the focus.
“In Hillary Clinton’s America, the middle class gets crushed,” a narrator says. “In Donald Trump’s America, working families get tax relief. Millions of new jobs created. Wages go up. Small businesses thrive. The American Dream, achievable. Change that makes America great again.”
NBC News reported that the 30-second spot, which is online here, is part of a significant ad buy – “about $10 million over the next week or so” – and will air in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
By and large, it’s pretty much a boilerplate message we’d expect from any GOP candidate in any election cycle, effectively arguing, “Democrats will raise taxes; I’ll cut them; and tax cuts create prosperity.” It’s nothing Americans haven’t heard before.
But what I found notable about the ad was the fine print.
To the Trump campaign’s credit, the commercial includes footnotes of sorts for many of its core claims. For example, at the 15-second mark, when the narrator says “working families get tax relief” in Trump’s America, there’s small text at the bottom that reads, “A Pro-Growth Tax Code For All Americans, GOP: A Better Way, 6/24/16.”
Why does that matter? Because “A Pro-Growth Tax Code For All Americans, GOP: A Better Way, 6/24/16” is House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) tax plan, not Donald Trump’s. They’re actually pretty different, and include their own marginal rates, which makes it odd for Trump to cite the House GOP’s plan as if it were his own.
A couple of seconds later, the same ad includes fine print that reads, “ ‘Details and analysis of the 2016 House Republican Tax Reform Plan,’ Tax Foundation, 7/15/16.” And while I’d take issue with the center-right Tax Foundation’s analysis of Ryan’s plan, the point is, again, that Trump has a different plan.
At the 19-second mark, note that the fine print reads, “ ‘Details and analysis of Donald Trump’s Tax Plan, Tax Foundation, 9/29/15.” And while that’s certainly closer to being applicable, what the ad doesn’t mention is that Trump has since abandoned that tax plan, unveiling a new blueprint three weeks ago.
There are some core questions that obviously deserve to be part of the national debate this election season: Is Trump correct that massive tax breaks for the wealthy trickle prosperity down on everyone else? Especially with unemployment being cut from 10% to below 5%, are far-right economic ideas really the appropriate course? Why would the candidate who says U.S. wages are already “too high” promise voters increased wages?
But as important as these lines of inquiry are, this new ad suggests the Trump campaign isn’t altogether familiar with its own platform. As MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin asked, Trump’s commercial “twice cites the House GOP tax plan. Then it cites his old tax plan, which has totally different rates. What is his plan?”
Don’t ask Trump and his aides; they don’t appear to know.