The Slatest

New Pro-Hillary Super PAC Ad Looks a Lot Like the GOP Effort to Stop Trump

Screenshot from a new Priorities USA ad against Donald Trump.

Screenshot via YouTube

Priorities USA, a pro-Hillary super PAC, has dropped a pair of new ads attacking Donald Trump. If you paid close attention to the primary battle on the Republican side, one of these ads might look awfully familiar.

First, go back to mid-March, when a conservative anti-Trump super PAC called Our Priorities aired an ad titled “Quotes.” In the spot, ordinary women of all ages—standing before a featureless background—read aloud past statements in which Trump spewed vicious, misogynistic bile.

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Now, check out this new Priorities USA ad, titled “Speak,” part of a $6 million media buy airing on TV from Wednesday through June 8 in Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Nevada. In the spot, ordinary women of all ages—standing before a featureless, white background—lip sync to audio recordings in which Trump spews vicious, misogynistic bile.

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The Los Angeles Times described “Quotes” as one of the “most effective” ads from this entire election cycle, as determined by political science researchers (though it premiered too late to make a difference in the race). Priorities USA clearly agreed the formula was a winner. Justin Barasky, communications director for the PAC, confirmed as much in a phone interview. “The Republican efforts to stop Trump taught us a lot,” said Barasky. “They spent too little, too late. But we focus-grouped what they did. We tested it to see what worked.”

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Again and again, pundits have marveled at Trump’s ability to survive his own outrageous behavior: mocking the disabled, scoffing at prisoners of war, combing his hair like that. It’s as though Trump moves within some sort of force field, letting him say or do whatever he likes with little personal repercussions. As the candidate himself once put it: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

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These ads are a sneaky effort to circumvent Trump’s hypnotic hold over America. They do it by putting distance between Trump’s ugly quotes and Trump’s mesmerizing, Teflon persona. The notion they bank on is that anyone but Trump caught saying the very same things would be hounded off the national stage. The remedy they settle on is that Trump’s words are best used against him by placing them in other people’s mouths, where they suddenly seem harsher, and where voters can ponder them in isolation.

The masterstroke is in casting women as the vessels for Trump’s blustery rot. We’re forced to weigh the dignity of these everyday women against the denigration of Trump’s woman-hating words. And we’re made to realize how juvenile—how small—Trump’s statements sound when they’re severed from the fancy suits, the high-rise podiums, and the alpha-male body language.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign. 

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