Donald Trump
Credit: The White House/Flickr

Last week Trump’s new campaign manager, Bill Stepian, temporarily suspended all television advertising nationwide in an attempt to re-calibrate the campaign’s messaging. By Friday afternoon, the president was tweeting that they’d have a new campaign ad on “Sleepy Joe Biden.” Here’s the first one they came up with.

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They didn’t get the facts all wrong. Biden will raise taxes on the wealthy and has promised a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But the main point was to paint the former vice president as weak and beholden to the far left. That is supposed to scare moms.

Things went downhill from there. Here is the ad they released two days later.

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The three issues from the previous ad were repeated. But this one begins by suggesting that Biden is in his basement alone, hiding, and diminished.

The first thing to note is that Biden is doing the same thing a lot of Americans are doing: practicing social distancing to slow the spread of a pandemic. I suspect that a lot of voters identify with him. But secondly, the Trump campaign had to photoshop images of Biden to create some visuals to dramatize their claims.

The first image is of Biden at an event outside. It has been photoshopped to look like it was taken in his basement and the microphone in his hand has been edited out.

The second one is of Biden attending an event at the home of the mayor of Coralville, Iowa. The vice president apparently gave up his seat to someone else and sat on the floor. According to The Gazette, the original photo was taken by their photographer Liz Martin and the Trump campaign not only edited it to remove the people around Biden, but failed to get permission to use it.

The third one was taken by an AP photographer on June 1 when Biden met with community leaders in a Black church in Wilmington, Delaware to discuss the George Floyd protests. The specific image was taken as Biden bowed his head in prayer with the group. It has been used in the ad to make him look alone and dejected.

If this is the kind of thing Stepien halted the president’s ad campaign in order to produce, it certainly doesn’t speak well to his skills as a campaign manager. Blatant photoshopping is child’s play, and to misuse an image of the former vice president in prayer is beyond the pale.

That is particularly true as the president seems to have simultaneously launched an initiative to suggest that Biden is against the Bible and God. For example, during a “telerally” with Pennsylvania voters on Sunday, Trump said, “Joe Biden, the radical Democrats are against fracking, they’re against guns, and they’re against the Bible, essentially, they’re against God.” Here is what he said in Ohio on Thursday.

One can only assume that Trump thinks that kind of thing works with the Christian nationalists. He’s probably right, but they’re already voting for him. Everyone else knows that it’s nothing but an offensive cheap shot.

So there you have the Trump campaign’s new attack strategy on Joe Biden: photoshops and lies about the vice president’s faith. But it is hard to simply fault Bill Stepian. When it comes to his candidate, the guy doesn’t have much to work with.

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