Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump's first television ad bends the truth, opponents of the maverick candidate say.
“I am very proud of this ad," Trump said in a Jan. 5 press release announcing the spot. "I don’t know if I need it, but I don’t want to take any chances because if I win we are going to Make America Great Again.”
The billionaire real estate investor is putting $2 million per week behind the spot, "Great Again," which rolled out in Iowa and New Hampshire Jan. 5. The ad focuses on Trump's signature issue, illegal immigration, as well as national security.
But critics were quick to note an irregularity in footage used to illustrate Trump's stance on illegals.
Politifact researchers found the images came not from the U.S.-Mexico border, as the narration indicates, but instead originated on the Italian television channel Repubblica TV. The images show "a small Spanish enclave on the mainland of Morocco," Politifact reported.
"He'll stop illegal immigration by building a wall on our southern border that Mexico will pay for," the ad's narration says as the footage from Morocco is seen.
"That was just video footage," Trump responded, when challenged during an appearance on FoxNews Channel's "O'Reilly Factor" by host Bill O'Reilly on the footage's use.
"It's just a display of what our country's going to look like," Trump said. "We're like a Third World country. We're a dumping ground, so you can just take it anywhere you want."
Trump takes pride in his relatively low campaign spending, and the new spot marks his first TV advertising buy. The campaign is allocating $1.1 million to Iowa, where Trump trails Texas Sen. Ted Cruz by 3.6 percentage points in the Real Clear Politics polling average, and the balance to New Hampshire, where RealClear Politics has Trump currently holding a 13-percentage-point advantage over Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
According to top Democratic strategist Paul Goldman, who created television ads for Doug Wilder's gubernatorial bid in 1989, the controversy probably won't make much difference.
"It's not going to help him, but so what?" Goldman told AMI Newswire. "If a candidate had said none of these things before, then this kind of error would be devastating to his campaign."
But because Trump has used tough and controversial rhetoric consistently in his campaign, Goldman said, "his supporters really won't care."
The ad's content and timing, a little less than a month before the Iowa Caucus kicks off the 2016 primary season, were deftly chosen, Goldman said.
"He's rolling it 30 days out, which is good," he said. "It shows he's a serious candidate for president who knows how to play the game."
"But his people had to think long and hard about what they were going to say in the first ad," Goldman added. "They could have gone the traditional soft and fuzzy introductory way. But they didn't. They played directly to his strongest issues right out of the gate."
That decision, by a public personality Americans have known for more than three decades, also carries risks. "He's set a bar for himself," Goldman said. "Can he ever go with a soft ad? To me, the more important ads aren't this one, but those that come next."