With Trump Struggling, Wealthy Backers Shell Out $1.3M for TV and Digital Ads to Shore Him Up

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With President Donald Trump trying to find his footing after his failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a group of wealthy backers is launching a 10-state media blitz to pressure Democratic senators to support him -- or at least think twice about piling on.

Making America Great, a nonprofit run by Rebekah Mercer, one of Trump's most influential donors, will begin airing $1 million in TV ads on Wednesday, coupled with a $300,000 digital advertising campaign. Here's the first ad:

The TV ads will run in the District of Columbia, along with ten states Trump carried in the presidential election where a Democratic senator is up for re-election in 2018: West Virginia, Wisconsin, Missouri, Michigan, North Dakota, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Montana and Pennsylvania. The digital campaign also will focus on voters in those states.

"Our group will be a conduit to highlight President Trump's achievement to the rest of the country," says Emily Cornell, who is moving from the Mercer-funded data firm Cambridge Analytica to run Making America Great's day-to-day operations. "We are here to promote successes and hold accountable broken promises -- not just to those who voted for Trump, but to all Americans."

Trump can use the PR boost. On March 27, Gallup reported his job approval rating fell to a new low of 36%, two points lower than his predecessor, Barack Obama, ever reached during his eight-year tenure in the White House.

The president could soon face added difficulties from House Republicans in passing legislation to keep the government running. Current funding runs out later this month. He'll also have to contend with Democratic opposition to his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. Trump donors, including Ms. Mercer, were upset that the Trump-backed Republican health care bill did not receive more outside support to counter its critics.

"Over the last couple weeks, we've aggressively tried to launch Making America Great," says David Bossie, the group's chief strategist. "We have the full support of the White House, and our effort is proud to be stepping up to help President Trump move his agenda forward."

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

Making America Great's first television ad emphasizes Trump's early accomplishments: the 298,000 jobs created during his first month in office, his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and his approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The ad does not mention the health-care bill.

In addition to Ms. Mercer, a daughter of hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, who was one of Trump's most important backers during the presidential campaign, the new group's donors include Bernie Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot Inc., and W.E. Bosarge, the chief executive officer of Houston-based Capital Technologies Inc.

Mr. Bosarge did not immediately return a call for comment. A spokesman for Mr. Marcus would neither confirm nor deny his involvement with the group.

The new advertising campaign marks the belated public entry of outside groups formed after the election to provide support for Trump and his agenda. In December, Ms. Mercer registered Making America Great as a nonprofit. At around the same time, a group of Trump campaign aides led by digital director Brad Parscale formed a different nonprofit, America First Policies.

On March 23, one of those aides, Rick Gates, left the group over concerns about his relationship with Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, who has offered to speak with the House Intelligence Committee about his ties to Russia. Mr. Bossie, too, was among the former Trump aides who started America First Policies. Mr. Bossie has now defected to Mr. Mercer's group.

"We're hopeful that everybody can work together," Mr. Bossie said.

--Joshua Green, Bloomberg News

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