Pro-Trump super PAC announces $10M ad buy targeting Biden

The move follows some Trump allies' angst over perceived PAC inaction.

April 2, 2020, 12:17 PM

As Democratic groups bombard President Donald Trump over his administration’s coronavirus response, blanketing the airways with millions of dollars worth ads, the sanctioned super PAC backing the president’s reelection announced on Wednesday a $10 million ad buy over six weeks in key battleground states targeting Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden.

America First said in an announcement the spots will run in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan starting in “mid-April.” However, the pro-Trump group did not provide details of what the ads will say beyond being “focused” on the former vice president.

The announcement follows Trump campaign aides and other allies growing increasingly incensed over the super PAC remaining on the sidelines while a slew of pro-Democrat and pro-Joe Biden groups paint the president as a “failed” leader in a time of crisis, complaints that first surfaced last week in a report by POLITICO.

“They’re not spending any money. And they’re not defending the president when he needs allies more than ever right now. Where are our friends?” one source close to the campaign told ABC News prior to Wednesday's announcement. “Where the hell is America First?”

In its latest fundraising report America First had $18 million cash on hand, compared to the $21 million that pro-Democrat group Priorities USA reported.

Now, the super PAC will launch its first spending spree this election cycle, a campaign that will include digital, cable, broadcast and mail that is set to start in mid-April and continue until the end of May.

And just moments after America First announced its first spending this cycle, Priorities USA is expanding a pre-existing $6.6 million dollar buy, criticizing Trump’s response to the coronavirus crisis and contrasting the administration’s response with Biden’s.

"Donald Trump's problem is not an incompetent super PAC failing to defend his record. It's that his incompetence makes his record impossible to defend," senior strategist and communications director for Priorities USA Josh Schwerin told ABC News.

Earlier this week, two Democratic groups announced a massive joint effort to take down the president.

A super PAC backing Joe Biden, Unite the Country, and a major Democratic super PAC, American Bridge, revealed plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars together supporting the Democratic frontrunner and to defeat the president in November.

“To beat Donald Trump, it is going to take everyone working together to spend every dollar smartly and strategically. We are proud to partner with American Bridge and other groups to promote the candidacy of Joe Biden, who we know will unite our country and restore decency and moral clarity,” Steve Schale, CEO of Unite the Country, said in a statement.

On Wednesday, another pro-Democratic group, Protect Our Care, lunched a new five-figure ad buy in crucial swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, blasting Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

The ad is a stinging rebuke of the president’s handling of the coronavirus crisis so far. “President Trump’s failure to prepare America for the coronavirus crisis has made Michigan less safe,” a ad running in Michigan says.

“We don’t have nearly enough tests. Our hospitals are overwhelmed. Doctors and nurses don’t have the masks, ventilators and supplies they need. And now more and more Michiganders are out of work,” the narrator adds.

PHOTO: Vice President Mike Pence gestures to a monitor as he speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, March 31, 2020.
Vice President Mike Pence gestures to a monitor as he speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, March 31, 2020, in Washington, as Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, President Donald Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, watch.
Alex Brandon/AP

Priorities USA, which started making placements earlier this year but didn't go up on the air until the last week of February, has spent about $29 million on television ads so far. This includes nearly $23 million worth of upcoming broadcast and cable buys reserved through the second week of July. Top markets include $10.2 million in Florida, $6.8 million in Pennsylvania, $6.1 million in Michigan and $5.5 million in Wisconsin.

Politico first reported last week that Trump allies felt deserted by the group’s inaction.

But a week later, and as Democratic groups continue to pour millions into tarring the president as inept amid a catastrophic crisis in an election year, some Trump aides had grown even more infuriated over America First’s inaction, especially given the president’s shift in recent days that the country could be facing a long slog amid the coronavirus pandemic, increasingly the possibility of the outbreak having a major impact on the 2020 election, multiple sources close to the campaign tell ABC News.

The Trump campaign declined to comment for this story. The super PAC and the campaign are legally prohibited from communicating directly with each other.

Amid the barrage of attacks from Biden and pro-Democratic groups, the re-election team has yet to target the former vice president or defend the president’s coronavirus response on the airwaves amid the pandemic. Instead, the Trump campaign has used its large social media footprint to echo talking points and boost messaging emerging from the White House, especially moments during the president’s daily press briefings.

In recent days the campaign has ramped up efforts to promote the president as being in a strong position despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. On Tuesday, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale publicity boasted of internal polling showing majority of Americans approving of the president's handling of the crisis and other numbers that showed a high percentage of respondents claiming to watch either all or some of the president's daily press briefings.

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 48% approved of Trump overall. However, just 51% approved of the president's handling of the virus, significant less than the internal numbers the Trump campaign promoted. It’s common for presidents’ approval ratings to rise up during war and other times of crisis.

Trump himself has touted the briefing's high ratings amid the pandemic that's devastated the county. On Wednesday, the campaign urged supporters to "demand the fake news" continue to air the briefings live.

ABC News' Soorin Kim and Johnny Verhovek contributed to this report

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