2020 ad watch
October 29, 2020

Minnesota's last four governors seem determined to make a stand for the state's "Minnesota nice" ethos, while also refuting baseless fears of vote fraud. Gov. Tim Walz (D) came up with the idea to invite his three predecessors — Mark Dayton (D), Tim Pawlenty (R), and Jesse Ventura (I) — to make and ad with him last Friday, they filmed it Monday, and Walz's office released it Wednesday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. The governors agree that this is "the most important election of our lifetime" and urge Minnesotans to show patience, "civility, and decency" throughout the process.

"I asked some friends to help me explain why Election Day might be a little different this year," Walz tweeted. "The four of us don't agree on everything. But we do agree on this: The 2020 election is too important to sit out. Go vote."

Along with President Trump's frequent, false assertions about rampant mail-in vote fraud and calls for his followers to "watch" people vote, Minnesota had to swat down a plan by a Tennessee-based company to send private armed guards to "protect" the polls, the Star Tribune reports.

"Our state is proud to have one of the safest and most secure election systems in the whole country," Pawlenty said. "With so many of us voting by mail, it may take a little longer to verify a winner," Walz added. "And that's okay, it's by design," Pawlenty continued. "A delay just means out system is working," Ventura said, "and that we're counting every ballot."

In a time of deep and sometimes violent polarization, this is pretty nice, Minnesota. Peter Weber

October 21, 2020

If baseball and apple pie are the quintessence of America, the ad Joe Biden's campaign dropped during Game 1 of the World Series seems intent on making a play for that proverbial country kitchen windowsill. The ad, "Go From There," has it all: high school football, veterans, corn farms, and — yes — a train, all rolling by under a piano playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and famously folksy actor Sam Elliott talking about how great America is and can be if it finds common ground.

"No Democratic rivers, no Republican mountains, just this great land and all that's possible on it with a fresh start," Elliott narrates. "Joe Biden doesn't need everyone in this country to always agree, just to agree that we all love this country and go from there." Not mentioned in the ad is the current president of the United States. Peter Weber

October 18, 2020

The Biden campaign debuted a political ad during Sunday's Steelers-Browns game, centered around the Blind Pig, a music club in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The thrust of the ad is that President Trump's COVID-19 response, both economic and in terms of public health, has decimated the live music business. But the commercial is perhaps most notable for the song that kicks in at about the 40-second mark, "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys. This is, Variety reports, the first time the band has licensed any of its music for an advertisement.

The Beastie Boys agreed to using "Sabotage" in the ad "because of the importance of the election," the Biden campaign tells Variety. The band has allowed the song to be used in a trailer for "Star Trek" and in the video game "Destine 2," but the late Adam Yauch said in his will that no music he was involved in creating should be used for product advertising, and the Beastie Boys have sued brands for using their songs, Variety reports.

"A lot of restaurants and bars that have been mainstays for years will not make it through this," Blind Pig co-owner Joe Malcoun says in the ad. "This is Donald Trump's economy: There is no plan and you don't know how to go forward." The economy is, probably not coincidentally, Trump's strongest issue in opinion polling.

Still, Joe Biden isn't the only top presidential candidate with support from legendary bands. Mike Love and his touring Beach Boys band played at a Trump fundraiser in Newport Beach, California, on Sunday (though founding Beach Boys members Brian Wilson and Al Jardine made clear they had nothing to do with Love's participation in a Trump event). Peter Weber

September 30, 2020

It can be hard to distill a political message down to its memorable essence. In a post-debate ad released Wednesday morning, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's campaign found two words to capture the ugly chaos of Tuesday night's presidential debate: "Had enough?" The ad also features a crying emoji superimposed on President Trump's face as he argues and badgers moderator Chris Wallace, and the sound of a baby crying.

Biden also slipped in his most memorable line from the night, "Will you shut up, man?" — which his campaign has already made into T-shirts and face masks. Peter Weber

September 28, 2020

President Trump paid just $750 in federal income tax in 2017 and also 2016, and paid no income tax at all in 11 of the past 18 years due to huge reported business losses, The New York Times reported Sunday evening. It didn't take the Biden campaign long to throw together some stock footage, pensive music, and figures for what the average teacher, firefighter, registered nurse, and — adjacent to Trump's own business — construction manager paid in income tax last year. None of them paid less than $5,000, and most paid more than $10,000 in federal taxes — or at least six times what the purported billionaire in the White House paid three years ago.

Joe Biden and his campaign are looking to cut into Trump's support among working class voters. "Of course, Trump has repeatedly faced — and survived — devastating turns that would have sunk any other politician," Jill Colvin notes at The Associated Press. But the news he "paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he ran for office and paid no income taxes at all in many others threaten to undercut a pillar of his appeal among blue-collar voters," because "even today, when asked to explain their support for Trump, voters often point to his success in business as evidence of his acumen." Peter Weber

September 25, 2020

"Who says campaign ads have to suck?" Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) asked, introducing a new group political ad he modestly describes as "Mission Impossible meets the Avengers." The ad definitely has the vibe of an action-hero movie trailer, only longer — it clocks in at nearly 4 minutes. The point seems to be to boost the profile of five Republicans running for Congress, three of them military veterans like Crenshaw.

The expensive-looking ad has CGI explosions, Crenshaw jumping out of a plane, jocular banter, a teased martial arts fight between the two female candidates, and, for some reasons, a British woman telling a U.S. congressman what mission he is supposed to accomplish. If you want to know what these six candidates hope to do for you in Congress, you'll have to search out their websites.

Texas Democrats picked up a number of seats in the 2018 midterms, and the Republican National Committee just wired Texas Republicans $1.3 million for this election. "Fantastic ad by Dan Crenshaw with compelling message: in 2020, Republicans worry they may lose Texas," anti-Trump conservative David Frum tweeted.

Crenshaw's opponent, Sima Ladjevardian, is not a military veteran, but at least two-high profile Democratic candidates running for office are Air Force veterans — as they also note in their ads, more appropriately. One of them, MJ Hegar, is running about 7 points behind Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in recent polls.

And Air Force veteran Gina Ortiz Jones is running against one of Crenshaw's "avengers" — Navy vet Tony Gonzales, the "cyber warfare expert" whose talents Crenshaw said were put to better use running for Congress — for the open seat being vacated by Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas). The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race "lean Democratic." Peter Weber

September 21, 2020

There isn't really anything to agree or disagree with in a campaign ad Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tweeted over the weekend, nothing to actually fight over. But it does win points for brevity, clocking in at 10 seconds, 5 of which is Biden saying he approves the message. The other 5 seconds is President Trump marveling that he might lose to Biden.

Trump also makes what Biden spins into a promise — and if so, it's not one Trump will keep. As The Week's Bonnie Kristian argued, you're (understandably) delusional if you think "that if Trump loses in November, he will, in some sense, go away." Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads