Pro-Biden super PAC's new ad targets Trump’s coronavirus response in battleground states

The ad comes amid a barrage of attacks from Dem groups on the president.

April 14, 2020, 6:10 AM

The top super PAC backing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is continuing to bombard President Donald Trump on the airwaves with a new ad set to start running in key battleground states on Tuesday targeting the president’s coronavirus response.

The new 30-second spot from Priorities USA, titled “Front Lines” contrasts statements the president has made at White House press briefings and in Fox News interviews downplaying the need for certain resources amid the pandemic with clips of doctors and nurses sounding the alarm about supply shortages of personal protective equipment, such as masks and ventilators.

“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” Trump says in a clip from a Fox News interview from late March when the president doubted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s request for more ventilators.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump answers questions from the press during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus at the White House on April 13, 2020, in Washington.
President Donald Trump answers questions from the press during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus at the White House on April 13, 2020, in Washington.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Dr. Colleen Smith, an emergency room doctor in Queens, New York, is then shown saying, “We are right now scrambling to try and get a few additional ventilators,” in a clip from a New York Times report inside the Elmhurst Hospital battling the virus.

Elmhurst Hospital was described by an emergency care physician to ABC News as “ground zero” in New York City’s battle with the novel coronavirus.

The new ad, first shared with ABC News, will start airing on Tuesday across states that were crucial to the president’s victory in 2016, including Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, with nearly $2 million behind it as part of a $70 million ad buy the group placed ahead of the convention, Priorities officials said.

“In this time of crisis, we need to listen to our medical professionals and ensure they have the resources they need to keep them safe while they keep us safe. Unfortunately, Donald Trump is more concerned with deflecting blame and protecting his own political standing than taking the necessary steps to protect our country,” Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA, said in a statement to ABC News.

“We will not let Trump dictate the narrative and will continue to air the facts and the truth and hold the president accountable,” he added.

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Critics have called out what they describe as the federal government's erratic system for supporting states in battling the coronavirus pandemic, with some states being given fewer resources than what they asked for, while some others see a surplus, as reported by ABC News.

Last week, the president announced at a White House press briefing that all 50 U.S. states and territories had been approved for major disaster declarations. Trump said that the government would deliver more N95 masks to the hard-hit New York City area and ventilators to hard-hit states including Michigan, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Illinois and New Jersey.

On Monday, the Trump campaign announced they’ve filed a lawsuit against local TV station WJFW-NBC of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, for airing a Priorities USA ad titled “Exponential Threat,” which they claim "contained intentionally false and defamatory statements about President Trump."

“Americans can see that President Trump is leading the nation in the war against the coronavirus while Joe Biden and his allies have decided to be the opposition in that war," Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement. "It used to be that we united as a nation to fight a common foe, but Democrats have abandoned that principle. President Trump is doing his job while Joe Biden and his pals are irrelevant, ineffective, and relentlessly partisan.”

The ad in question strings together two separate comments the president made out of context. One clip features the president saying "the coronavirus," which leads into another clip of Trump saying "this is their new hoax.” Multiple fact checkers, including The Washington Post, have concluded that the president appeared to be calling Democrats’ politicization of the coronavirus a “hoax,” and not the virus itself.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump gestures while he speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, at the White House on April 13, 2020, in Washington.
President Donald Trump gestures while he speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, at the White House on April 13, 2020, in Washington.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Priorities USA, which is not a party in the lawsuit, has refused to back down from the Trump campaign’s legal action.

"This is pretty simple. Donald Trump doesn't want voters to hear the truth and he's trying to bully TV stations into submission,” Cecil said in a statement. "We will never stop airing the facts and holding the president accountable for his actions."

The new spot is the latest example of Priorities USA and other pro-Biden groups battering the president on the air over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic -- an aggressive attack strategy that’s left some allies of the president frustrated over the inaction of their own major super PAC America First Action.

Following weeks of angst from Trumpworld, in early April America First announced a planned $10 million ad buy over six weeks in key battleground states targeting Biden starting in “mid-April” -- however, details around the ad remain unclear and no ad has been released by the pro-Trump group.

Meanwhile, Priorities USA is already pouring millions into critical battleground states to oppose the president, heavily focusing on Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, three states that could define the outcome of the 2020 election.

Of the $30 million in television ads they have reserved so far this year, the group has already invested $10.2 million in Florida, $7.2 million in Pennsylvania, $6.3 million in Michigan, $5.7 million in Wisconsin and $350,150 in Arizona.

The outside group, which has long been running a parallel campaign to ready the battlefield for the eventual nominee since 2016, announced in early 2019 a $100 million campaign targeting Trump -- planning to spend that massive sum before the Democratic convention, which is now slated for August.

"Our job is to identify the three million people that are going to make a difference in this election, and go talk to them consistently effectively and wherever they're getting their news and information," Cecil said back in November 2019.

By the end of the first month of this year, the super PAC reached $111 million in contributions and commitments and raised their pre-convention budget to $150 million.

Over the last few weeks, the president's approval for his handling of the crisis continues to slide after peaking at 55% back in mid March. According to a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll, just 44% approve while 55% disapprove.

During the entire 2016 presidential cycle, the flagship Democratic outside group spent upwards of $190 million.

The alliance with Biden began about one month before Sen. Bernie Sanders, the last of two candidates in the race, dropped out last week, and subsequently endorsed Biden on Monday. The super PAC announced in early March a new ad campaign to answer the onslaught of attacks from Trump and his allies against Biden, without formally endorsing the former vice president but arguing he had an "insurmountable advantage" over Sanders.

With the coronavirus freezing the entire 2020 campaign, the group also committed another $17 million in digital ads, as an initial buy, to start running after July. The online ad spending will target voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

While Priorities remains the Democrats' largest single super PAC that will boost Biden in his general election battle with Trump, a cadre of outside groups have significantly upped their commitments in recent weeks as the former vice president wraps up the party’s nomination.

Last month, Unite the Country, a super PAC helmed by former Biden aides and American Bridge, another major Democratic group, announced a nine-figure commitment to support Biden.

The partnership is co-chaired by former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who dropped out of the 2020 race in February. The two groups said last month that they have already raised over $70 million in their efforts to unseat Trump in November.

ABC News' Soorin Kim contributed to this report.

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