Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump has started advertising in Pennsylvania, but independent allies of the two sides are beginning to weigh in, including the National Rifle Association.
The Clinton campaign recently spent millions on ads in eight battleground states, but the buy didn’t include air time in Pennsylvania.
The campaign is placing staff and opening field offices here, but isn’t concerned enough yet to make it an advertising priority. But there will be plenty of activity in Pennsylvania by independent groups on both sides.
At Philadelphia’s Walnut Street headquarters of AFSCME District Council 33 Thursday, labor, community and environmental activists announced the creation of a group called For Our Future, which will be active in Pennsylvania and four other states.
The funding comes from wealthy environmentalist Tom Steyer and several national unions including AFSCME, whose national president Lee Saunders says it’s all about grass-roots organizing.
“This effort isn’t about yard signs. It isn’t about slick TV ads,” Saunders said. “It’s about all of us, coming together, having those kinds of conversations heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul.”
Leaders didn’t say whether For Our Future would advertise, or how much money it would spend. The group has both a super PAC and a nonprofit organization that can raise and spend money in the election without having to reveal its donors.
Franklin & Marshall College political analyst Terry Madonna said this is how it’s going to be in Pennsylvania.
“We’re going to see an awful lot of special-interest money,” Madonna said in an interview. “The super PACs, the dark money will flood into the state. The same is true of the U.S. Senate race, one of the top five Senate races in the country.”
Indeed, the speakers at the For Our Future launch said they’re also out to defeat incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who’s in a tight race with Democratic challenger Katie McGinty.
On the conservative side of the street, the National Rifle Association has spent $2 million to run a TV ad explicitly endorsing Donald Trump while attacking Hillary Clinton.
There’s no real fact-checking to be done here, because the ad is pretty much fact-free. It simply associates Clinton with the 2012 attack on Benghazi, the subject of multiple investigations.Madonna said it’s a familiar line of attack.
“The Benghazi issue has been rehashed and rehashed,” Madonna said. “It’s what I call a reinforcing issue — if you believe that Secretary Clinton did something wrong, you go ‘right on,’ and you buy into it.
“If you believe she didn’t, you just dismiss it. The fact is that the Benghazi issue is not changing very many minds.”
While the Trump campaign has little cash and isn’t advertising now, it has finally named a state director for Pennsylvania, Ted Christian, and a senior adviser, David Urban.