Michelle Ye Hee Lee, The Washington Post
WASHINGTON – The ad was a dark twist on President Ronald Reagan’s famous 1984 “Morning in America” campaign spot. On Monday evening, it aired in Washington on a Fox News show hosted by Tucker Carlson, one of President Donald Trump’s favorites.
Hours later, in a series of midnight tweets, the president was angrily attacking the super PAC behind the ad and the group’s leaders, calling them “LOSERS” and a “disgrace.”
The surgical hit that drew the president’s anger – helping the spot garner 17 million views overall, its makers said – was the work of a small band of veteran political operatives who worked for past Republican presidential candidates and are now aiming to defeat the incumbent GOP president.
Their super PAC, the Lincoln Project, has a much smaller war chest than other independent groups going after Trump. But it is aiming to make the most of its unique position by directly antagonizing the president, who appears particularly piqued by the involvement of lawyer George T. Conway, who is married to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.
This week, Trump called him “a deranged loser of a husband.” George Conway quickly used the attack to question the president’s fitness for office, in a Washington Post opinion column.
“I didn’t necessarily think going in that this would be the ad that would trigger him, because we have things under discussion that would be much more pointedly directed at him individually,” Conway said in an interview.
“We obviously got a lot of attention thanks to the president, and we’re very grateful to him for that,” he added.
Conway declined to comment on his wife’s reaction to the spot. Kellyanne Conway did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The group’s ad, called “Mourning in America,” criticizes Trump’s handling of the pandemic, focusing on the skyrocketing unemployment rate and death toll. “If we have another four years like this, will there even be an America?” asks the narrator.
After the group spent just $10,000 to produce the commercial and $5,000 to run it in the Washington market on Fox News, the ad went viral. On Thursday, Joe Biden’s campaign released a new ad with a similar message and tone.
Within days, the Lincoln Project received about $2 million from 25,000 new donors – money it is now using to air the spot in three battleground states, super-PAC officials said.