Late August may be the absolutely worst time to launch a political TV blitz. But a Democratic superPAC, Priorities USA Action, is offering up a minicampaign this week and next, warning Republicans that their heated rhetoric on immigration is captured on videotape and being prepped for prime time later in the race.
Since billionaire Donald Trump announced for the Republican nomination in June, he's set the agenda in the immigration debate. As he has moved up the polls to become the front-runner, other GOP candidates have echoed much, but not all, of his anti-immigrant rhetoric.
In the digital-only ad, Trump and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush are shown using harsh language, including the phrase "anchor baby," to describe Hispanic immigrants and their U.S.-born children. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also appears briefly in the 30-second spot. The ad says, in subtitled English and Spanish, "Seventeen Republicans are running for president with one message for immigrant families."
Priorities USA Action says the ad will appear on Facebook, Twitter and mobile-device video in Colorado, Florida and Nevada — three swing states with big Hispanic populations — but only for a week or two. And without broadcast TV in the mix, it's a small-dollar effort. The message is that Priorities has the video and will be happy to show more of it to Hispanic voters later.
The superPAC's executive director, Anne Caprara, issued a statement that Trump had set the tone on immigration and "Priorities will make sure that the American public doesn't forget what the eventual Republican nominee said way back in the ugly summer of Trump."
Memories might not prove that durable. "I'm glad this is happening in August 2015 and not August 2016," said Brian J. Walsh, a Republican consultant. On immigration, he said, "there's no question that Donald Trump is hurting the party right now, especially the way Hispanics and independents view the party."
But tidal waves of new issues will be breaking between now and the nominating conventions next summer, and Walsh said most of the candidates' current remarks on immigration will be "in the rearview mirror."