Super Bowl Sunday is finally here, and by now, you should have your foam finger and your nachos ready to go. But in case you forgot that it's still an election year, President Donald Trump is here to remind you, even during the big game. Thanks, I guess? These tweets about Donald Trump's 2020 Super Bowl ad have plenty to say, and it's not all nice.
In early January, football fans got put on notice that the big game would feature a few campaign ads — specifically, from Trump's re-election campaign, as well as the first-time campaign of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is running as a Democrat. Each campaign reportedly secured about 60 seconds of air time, although Trump appeared to choose to separate his into two 30-second slots. The spots are expected to set back each campaign a hefty $10 million, as, according to The Hollywood Reporter, a 30-second Super Bowl ad costs about $5 million.
The first Trump ad, which aired about 30 minutes after kickoff, featured one of Trump's real bipartisan victories during his administration and the woman at the center of it. The ad touted the president's push for criminal justice reform and included Alice Marie Johnson, who was released from prison after Trump granted her clemency on a life sentence for drug charges. Following Johnson's release, Trump also signed into law the First Step Act, bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation which, among other things, retroactively eliminated the disparity in crack and cocaine sentences, eased requirements for mandatory minimums and gave judges more leeway in sentencing, and increased "good time credits" to let prisoners shorten their sentences through good behavior.
The ad itself wasn't super controversial, but Twitter was still pretty shocked to see it.
In Trump's other ad, entitled "Stronger, Safer, and More Prosperous" and released on Jan. 30, the president's campaign touts markers of economic success, including reported wage growth and low unemployment, particularly for minority groups, including black Americans and Hispanic Americans. "America demanded change, and change is what we got," the voiceover said over images of Trump's 2016 election victory, military planes, and crowds cheering Trump. Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, real average hourly wages have been on a general upward trend since about 2013. Similarly, the civilian unemployment rate has been on a general downward trend since 2010.
However, Mother Jones pointed out that the cheering crowd of people in work vests, seen at about the halfway point of the ad, appeared to come from an Aug. 13 event at a petrochemical plant run by Royal Dutch Shell in Beaver County, Pennsylvania — an event where workers were reportedly told that if they didn't attend the event, they would not be paid for the day, according to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Employees who chose not to attend would reportedly receive an excused, but unpaid, absence.
This isn't the first time Trump has advertised during a major sports event, of course. The campaign also ran ads during the 2019 World Series, which was fairly ironic, given that the president himself was booed while attending that same event. Awkward.
Nevertheless, The New York Times noted that Super Bowl ads are unusual in presidential politics, in part because of the hefty price tag (the Super Bowl has some of the most expensive and desirable advertising slots of the year) and in part because campaigns may prefer to buy local advertising slots in which they can more precisely tailor their message. However, the timing may hold a clue to why Trump decided to splurge on the multi-million dollar ad. The Feb. 2 Super Bowl comes just one day before the Iowa caucuses, traditionally the start of the primary season and the first real test for presidential candidates. A golden opportunity or a last-ditch attempt to win votes? Either way, the president seized his chance.