The Slatest

The NRA’s First Trump Ad Is All About Benghazi

The National Rifle Association is wading into the presidential ad wars. The gun lobby’s political arm, the NRA Political Victory Fund, has released a new TV spot and will spend a reported $2 million to spread it.

The ad features Mark “Oz” Geist, a retired Marine who provided security services to the U.S. government in Benghazi at the time of the 2012 attacks. We watch Geist strolling the grounds of a cemetery as he speaks earnestly to the camera, mourning his “friends” who “didn’t make it.” The ad then abruptly transitions to the campaign. “Hillary as president?” Geist asks, before answering his own question: “No thanks.”

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There’s a lot to wonder about here. For instance: Why does the ad show hundreds of graves when only four Americans died in Benghazi? And why does Geist appear to have been filmed inside a national cemetery when government policy explicitly prohibits filming ads in those locales?

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But the more interesting question to me is: Who is this ad trying to reach, and why? One presumes that an ad aimed at the swing electorate would attempt to present a more nuanced case against Hillary Clinton than “No thanks.” This spot takes your Hillary hatred as a given, and assumes you already blame her for those deaths in Benghazi.

Given the way the spot begins—with a swipe at folks who threaten not to vote in November because their favored candidates didn’t win the nomination—it seems clear that the target here is GOP voters who aren’t yet sold on Donald Trump. It’s marketing that’s designed to rally the base around the Republican nominee, though it never names him until “TRUMP 2016” flashes across the screen at the very end.

Clinton and her allies outspent Trump on June ads in battleground states by a score of $26 million to zero. It might come as little reassurance for Trump fans that the first real effort to fight back isn’t even pretending to change hearts and minds—it’s simply hoping to shore up the GOP candidate’s fractured foundation.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.

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