As the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic rages on in the United States with over 35,000 confirmed cases, some Democrats have zeroed in on President Trump's response as a way to defeat him at the ballot in November.
An anti-Trump Super Political Action Committee has pledged to spend $5 million on ads specifically aimed at the president's handling of the virus, skewering his actions and comments from the beginning of the pandemic. PACRYNOM, the action committee arm of ACRYNOM, a left-wing political advocacy organization, has turned the quickly spreading disease into a political weapon.
The Wuhan coronavirus has claimed the lives of nearly 500 Americans and has flipped a booming economy and job market into a chaotic free fall. In the midst of a national crisis, however, PACRYNOM vowed to spend $2.5 million by the end of April on ads intended to boost the Democratic Party in November, targeting key battleground states of Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin and Michigan. The Action Committee further pledged to spend a total of $5 million by the end of July. All ads will focus primarily on the Wuhan coronavirus.
"This is a public health issue and a national security issue, but it's also a public policy issue and thus a political one," said PACRONYM president Tara McGowan of the large cash expenditure aimed at shaking the nation's confidence in the president. The PAC had previously vowed to spend upwards of $75 million on ads during the impeachment of President Trump.
The promise to spend a huge amount of money during a time when millions of Americans face income loss and uncertain futures has caused some to question the ethical motivation of PACRYNOM's announcement.
"It's a very fine line between ensuring that the president has the legitimacy to speak authoritatively on what Americans must do in order to be safe, and the very real and legitimate questions to raise regarding how the president has handled this crisis given that he's on the ballot in November," said University of North Carolina professor of political communication Daniel Kreiss.
"Crises like this one should be a time for national unity, and instead, this large left-wing dark money group is taking advantage of the coronavirus to score cheap political points against the president," outside counsel of Americans For Public Trust Adam Laxalt said to the Federalist last week.
PACRONYM has previously attracted the attention of media with its roster of well-known, anti-Trump donors. The PAC has been referred to as "dark money" being used by the Democratic Party to gain political advantage in the November races for not just the White House, but Congressional seats as well. ACRONYM is also directly linked to the disastrous digital app problems during the Iowa Caucus.
A spokesman for the Trump 2020 campaign dismissed the efforts by Democrats as "unserious." He also lauded the president's efforts in combating the effects of the pandemic in the USA, saying Trump's response was "unprecedented" in the time of such crisis.
"It is laughable that his allies would launch this attack when Americans can see for themselves through daily public briefings that President Trump and his team are on the case and have been so since before Joe Biden even woke up to the situation," Murtaugh said.
The administration has suspended attack ads on Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden, but Trump hasn't shied away from his own criticism of former President Obama's handling of potential disease outbreaks. His critiques have extended to Joe Biden's time as vice president under Obama.
"Sleepy Joe Biden was in charge of the H1N1 Swine Flu epidemic which killed thousands of people. The response was one of the worst on record. Our response is one of the best, with fast action of border closings & a 78% Approval Rating, the highest on record. His was lowest!" Trump said in a tweet last week. Murtaugh seconded the president's message, dismissing Biden's attempts to skewer Trump in his bid for the White House.
"The Obama White House had to apologize for Joe Biden's remarks that set off a public panic," he said. "And when Biden made a speech about the coronavirus outbreak earlier this month, most of the actions he recommended had already been undertaken by President Trump."
Public approval of Trump's response to the pandemic rose by more than 10 points across several national polls from the first week of the pandemic to the second. Many pointed to Trump's inclusion of the private sector to ensure the manufacturing of medical supplies and test kits as well as his choice to yield to several health experts while addressing the country.