Joe Biden’s campaign unveiled its first general election ad aimed at black Americans on Thursday, urging them to stand against President Donald Trump in the same manner that African Americans “stood up to the violent racists” in the past.
Titled “Better America,” the ad is part of a new $280 million media blitz the former vice president’s campaign announced on Wednesday. It will be run on both television and digital media platforms across 15 key 2020 battlegrounds, including Michigan, Florida, and Nevada. The ad, which was first reported by the Associated Press, is the initial step in a wide-reaching media campaign that Biden hopes will “reach approximately half of all African American households.”
As such, the ad focuses heavily on how black Americans have “pushed this country to live up to its stated ideals” and how they can do so again this November.
“We must choose to fight for that better America,” the narrator states over images of Civil Rights protesters. “And just like our ancestors who stood up to the violent racists of a generation ago, we will stand up to this president and say, ‘No more,’ because America is better than him.”
Juxtaposed throughout the 60-second ad are also images of legendary civil rights figures, like the late-congressman John Lewis, and scenes from recent protests by Black Lives Matters activists. Although the ad does not mention Trump by name, the president’s face flashes on the screen right before images from the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The former vice president’s ad comes as much of the nation is still dealing with protests over racial inequities that were triggered by George Floyd’s death in police custody. Biden, who has struggled to generate enthusiasm among younger black voters, has spent much of his time since Floyd’s passing arguing that the upcoming general election presents an opportunity to “rip out the roots of systemic racism.”
It is unclear, though, if Biden’s message is working. Polling from mid-July indicates that the former vice president is underperforming relative to recent Democrat nominees among black voters.
If accurate, the numbers pose a major problem for Biden and his party moving into the general election. Most Democrat strategists point to a drop-off in black turnout between 2012 and 2016 as the primary reason for why former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lost.
During that race, Clinton received 88 percent of the black vote, according to exit polls. Although impressive, the numbers were significantly lower than the 93 percent former President Barack Obama garnered on his way to reelection in 2012.
The drop-off was most significant in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—states that went narrowly for Trump after having backed Democrats at the presidential level for decades. For example, data from the Michigan secretary of state’s office indicates Clinton received 75,000 fewer votes in Wayne County—where Detroit is located—than Obama did in 2012. Even though Clinton still won the country by a substantial margin, the decrease in support ensured Clinton lost the state to Trump, who made strong inroads with white working-class voters, by more than 10,000 votes.
Many believe that if black turnout was the same in 2016 as it was in 2012, Clinton would have won the presidency, despite Trump’s populist appeal to blue-collar whites.
Complicating Biden’s problems in building enthusiasm among black voters is the former vice president’s penchant for gaffes. This was exhibited on Wednesday when Biden seemed to state that the African American community, with notable exceptions, was not as “diverse” as the Latino community.