- The Washington Times - Monday, January 4, 2016

Republican presidential contender Donald Trump’s first TV ad was set to hit the airwaves Tuesday and hammer home some of his most controversial stances on Muslims and illegal immigrants, a message aimed at revving up his base for increasingly tough nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The 30-second spot is part of the planned multimillion-dollar ad buy in those two states and marks a shift in strategy for Mr. Trump, who until now has relied on free news coverage and some radio advertising to deliver his message to voters.

With the first nominating contests just weeks away, Mr. Trump’s TV ad will debut as polls show the longtime front-runner surpassed by Sen. Ted Cruz in Iowa and leading a tightening race in New Hampshire.

“They certainly can hear footsteps coming behind Donald in both Iowa and New Hampshire,” said veteran Republican Party political strategist Charlie Black, who served as a senior adviser to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. “What they are trying to do is reinforce his strong points and motivate people to stay with him.”

Mr. Trump plans to spend at least $2 million per week airing TV ads, with $1.1 million allocated in Iowa and nearly $1 million in New Hampshire.

The billionaire businessman said he was advertising on TV to play it safe but insisted that he was confident about his position in the race and his huge level of support.

He stressed that he was $35 million under budget in his self-financed campaign.

“We have spent the least amount of money and have the best results, and this is the kind of thinking the country needs. I am very proud of this ad. 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,” he said in a statement.

The ad repeats Mr. Trump’s call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States and his promise to build a huge wall along the border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants.

The Muslim ban was widely denounced as un-American and bigoted. Critics said the border wall was a simplistic and unrealistic proposal. But both ideas resonated with voters and fueled Mr. Trump’s unconventional run to the front of a crowded Republican presidential field.

The ad used ominous music and black-and-white images to create a threatening atmosphere. Mug shots of the husband-and-wife terrorist team that killed 14 people in an attack last month in San Bernardino, California, flash across the screen, followed by stock footage of a body on a stretcher being loaded into an ambulance.

“The politicians can pretend it is something else, but Donald Trump calls it ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ That’s why he’s calling for a temporary shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until we can figure out what’s going on,” says a male narrator.

“He’ll quickly cut the head off ISIS and take their oil,” the narrator continues over video footage of artillery being fired on naval vessels and grainy aerial footage of crowds storming a border outpost in the desert. “And he’ll stop illegal immigration by building a wall on our southern border that Mexico will pay for.”

It provoked familiar criticism.

Donald Trump’s new ad is more of the same disgusting and offensive demagoguery we’ve come to expect from the GOP front-runner, but even in a new year the Republican field is giving us the same old refusal to disavow their pledge to support him if he’s the nominee,” said Justin Barasky, spokesman for Priorites USA, a super PAC supporting Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton.

But Mr. Trump’s message still resonated with his fans.

“It was a pretty bold ad. I think it reinforces the issues that a lot of people are concerned about with the border and terrorism here in the United States,” said Jeff Moorman, a Trump volunteer in Iowa who saw a preview of the ad posted online.

“It’s definitely going to solidify his base, and I think the message could very well reach out to voters that may have not attended his rallies but feel the same way,” said Mr. Moorman, 43, a sales and marketing professional in Des Moines, Iowa.

Republican political consultant Ryan Williams said the TV spot underscored legitimate concern likely simmering within the Trump campaign about its positioning for the Feb. 1 caucuses in Iowa and the Feb. 9 primary in New Hampshire.

“I don’t know if Trump realizes it, but I think his people do,” said Mr. Williams, who worked on the campaign of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

“He’s in a pretty precarious spot right now in Iowa, and I don’t think anyone yet knows what the effect of a Trump loss in Iowa will be on New Hampshire,” he said. “Trump’s entire campaign is based on him running around calling everyone a loser. If he loses in Iowa, that makes him a loser and it could have a psychological effect heading into the New Hampshire primary and cause him to lose support.

“I think the campaign is trying to shore up their support and motivate them to vote with this TV buy,” he said.

Mr. Williams and the Washington-based consulting firm for which he works are supporting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the Republican nominating race.

Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said Mr. Williams was biased and just plain wrong.

“I’ve known Ryan a long time and I respect him, but clearly he has no idea what he is talking about. If he was so great, his boss [Mr. Romney] would have won last cycle,” he said.

Mr. Williams also questioned the campaign’s use of stock footage of a man being loaded into an ambulance and people storming a border outpost, which was determined not to be the U.S.-Mexico border.

“It would not pass standard vetting on a regular campaign,” he said. “It would be trouble for a conventional candidate, but Trump has proven that he’s not a conventional candidate.”

Indeed. The fact-checking organization Politifact identified the image of dozens of people streaming across the border as video of an incident May 3, 2014, on Morocco’s border with Melilla, a small Spanish enclave.

Politifact rated the TV ad’s footage as “Pants on Fire,” its highest level of dishonest political rhetoric, saying the campaign purported to show Mexicans streaming over the U.S. border.

The Trump campaign disagreed.

“The use of this footage was intentional and selected to demonstrate the severe impact of an open border and the very real threat Americans face if we do not immediately build a wall and stop illegal immigration,” the campaign said in a statement. “The biased mainstream media doesn’t understand, but Americans who want to protect their jobs and their families do.”

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