While Donald Trump’s legal travails have made headlines for two months now, the courtroom drama kicked off by the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago search is barely registering in one important place: battleground races this fall.
Out of more than 5,800 distinct TV and digital ads since the Aug. 8 search of the former president’s Florida property, fewer than 20 mentioned Mar-a-Lago or the Justice Department, according to a POLITICO analysis of ad transcripts maintained by AdImpact. Abortion and the economy-related ads are dominating in swing districts, according to the advertising data.
The statistic highlights an essential reality about Trump’s legal troubles. For as much as the multiple investigations closing in on the former president rivet avid consumers of political news, campaigns aren’t yet using it in competitive races around the country. Instead, both parties are harnessing it for appeals to their respective bases.
“Obviously there are a lot of concerns with the president’s conduct. But this election is about putting people over politics, about what we’ve achieved for the American people and what’s left to do, and the Republicans’ obsession with power and failure to put forward a plan,” Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who chairs House Democrats’ campaign arm, said in a brief interview.
The handful of ads that do mention Trump’s legal quagmire come largely from Republicans and conservative outside groups criticizing what they see as DOJ overreach, not from vulnerable Republicans in swing seats.
“Biden’s FBI raids Pres. Trump’s home. This is unprecedented!,” read an Aug. 10 advertisement on Google from the Republican National Committee that doubled as a fundraising appeal.
Democrats, for their part, are mostly sticking to ads about abortion — which remained the most frequently mentioned issue several months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — along with other kitchen-table issues, such as