WASHINGTON - Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg will use his Super Bowl ad to highlight his efforts to combat gun violence as he blankets the airwaves against President Donald Trump.
Trump and Bloomberg will be airing dueling ads during Sunday's NFL championship game, with both campaigns spending an estimated $10 million on 60 seconds of airtime. But instead of an attack ad — as some had reported — Bloomberg's spot will instead feature a grieving mother who lost her son to gun violence.
The focus underscores the former New York City mayor's efforts to contrast himself with Trump as he seeks to build a national profile with a highly unconventional ad-driven campaign that is looking to get under the president's skin, including during the nation's most-watched television event.
The broadcast comes just one day before Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses — though neither candidate is really competing. Trump has an ironclad hold on the Republican nomination, while Bloomberg is skipping the four early voting states to focus instead on “Super Tuesday” contests on March 3.
Bloomberg's ad, which will air following the halftime show, features the story of Calandrian Simpson Kemp, a Texas mother whose 20-year-old son was fatally shot in 2013. George Kemp Jr. was a college football player who dreamed of one day playing in the NFL.
“Lives are being lost every day. It is a national crisis,” the grieving mother says in the ad, which also highlights Bloomberg's record on the issue.
“When I heard Mike was stepping into the ring, I thought, `Now we have a dog in the fight,'“ she says. “Mike's fighting for every child. Because you have a right to live. No one has a right to take your hopes and dreams.”
Bloomberg is a longtime backer of what he calls “common sense” gun legislation and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars since his time as New York City mayor to combat gun violence, including founding Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which eventually merged with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
In 2013, he founded Everytown for Gun Safety, which has worked to pass gun control legislation, and in 2018, he spent $110 million to elect candidates who support gun safety in the midterm elections.
Simpson Kemp told The Associated Press that she first met Bloomberg in 2015 and was drawn to him because he was proposing solutions.
“When you have lost a child — when you have actually opened the earth and put your child in a hole and closed it up — you don't have time to wait and play,” she said Wednesday. “This is urgent. And I knew Mike Bloomberg had a plan and had a plan that we can get behind.”
She will be attending the game Sunday on a ticket Bloomberg gave her. “When I walk into that stadium and sit in that seat,” she said, she'll be able to “tell my son that he made it. Indirectly, he has made it.”
Trump's campaign, meanwhile, intends to preview its own Super Bowl ad to supporters by text message later this week. Last year, his campaign aired a swaggering ad during the final game of the World Series that labeled Trump “no Mr. Nice Guy” and highlighted the raid in Syria that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
While an ad featuring a tearful mother might seem out of place alongside spots advertising beer and sedans, Bloomberg campaign spokeswoman Julie Wood said the game is a rare occasion when “120 million Americans come together” to watch something “and actually watch the ads and talk about the ads.”
“It's not about selling corn chips and beer. It is a serious ad about an issue that I think the country does care about and should care about,” Bloomberg said in an appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” this week.
Bloomberg's decision to buy the Super Bowl time is just the latest in his tit-for-tat with Trump, whose campaign had been in talks with Fox, the network broadcasting the game, for months about an ad.
The candidates, who have been trading barbs since Bloomberg's late decision to enter the race, both have near-limitless money to spend. Trump's campaign has set fundraising records, with $46 million raised in the last quarter of 2019 alone. And Bloomberg, a billionaire who is self-funding his race, had already spent over $225 million on television and digital advertisements as of mid-January, according to the tracking firm Advertising Analytics.
During his late-night interview, Fallon remarked that Bloomberg seemed to be getting under Trump's skin with his nonstop television presence.
“Well, I sure hope so,” Bloomberg responded. “I'm trying.”