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In rare move, DNC targets presidential ad at El Paso voters

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For the first time in a generation, national Democrats are targeting a general election presidential television advertisement at an El Paso audience.

The Democratic National Committee on Friday began running an ad called “Wolves,” aimed at senior citizens in El Paso and other communities viewed by the DNC as potential battlegrounds. The ad criticizes President Trump for mismanaging the COVID-19 response and jeopardizing the lives of older Americans.

“America’s seniors raised us. They fought for our country, and they worked to build us a better future. But when experts warned that coronavirus would hit older Texans hard, Trump refused to listen. He didn’t care — in fact, he pushed to open our country without the necessary safety measures, jeopardizing their health, because he thought it would help his reelection,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.

White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany on Thursday said voters support Trump’s response to the pandemic.

“His historic COVID response speaks for itself with delivering on ventilators and testing, leading the world in the amount of testing we’ve provided; therapeutics; the 13 vaccine candidates — the Moderna example that I pointed out to you.  This president’s response has been historic, and we believe his support in this country reflects that,” McEnany said in a briefing.

The Real Clear Politics average of recent polling on the president’s handling of COVID-19 shows 39 percent of voters approving and 58 percent disapproving. The website’s average of recent election polls shows presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden with an 8.6-point lead over Trump.

It’s been at least two decades since a major political party has run a TV ad targeting El Paso voters in a general election presidential race. Candidates have advertised in El Paso during primaries, but general election ads on El Paso TV stations and cable systems have been targeted at voters in neighboring New Mexico because that state is a frequent battleground.

No Democrat has carried Texas since Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Republicans in recent decades have won the state’s electoral votes by double-digit margins.

Recent polls have shown Biden close to or even leading Trump in Texas, which has tempted Democrats to consider targeting the Lone Star State. There is virtually no way a Republican can win the White House while losing Texas.

But such a strategy could be risky because targeting Texas would require a substantial investment that would come at the expense of other competitive states.

El Paso is one of the most solidly Democratic counties in Texas. In 2016, Trump received just 25.7 percent of the El Paso vote, the worst performance ever by a major party candidate in the county. 

The DNC didn’t say how much money it was spending in El Paso, only that the ads would run on cable stations. Officials said it was part of a “six-figure campaign over the course of five weeks to hold Trump accountable.”

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Robert Moore

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986. His work has received a number of top journalism honors including the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, Pulitzer Prize finalist and the Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year Award. Moore’s work has appeared in the Washington Post, Texas Monthly, ProPublica, National Public Radio, The Guardian and other publications. He has been featured as an expert on border issues by CNN, MSNBC, BBC, CBC and PBS.

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