SHAFAQNA – Republican US presidential hopeful Donald Trump gave some of the most divisive proposals of his campaign a starring role in his first major television ad.
With the opening 2016 primary contest four weeks away, the billionaire businessman is spotlighting his plan to ban Muslims from entering the US – temporarily and with exceptions, he says – and to build a wall along the southern border.
Mr Trump’s campaign says he plans to spend two million dollars (£1.36 million) a week on the ad, set to begin airing today across the first two states to cast votes in the Republican nominating contest.
Iowa hosts the nation’s first presidential caucuses on February 1 and New Hampshire follows with the opening primary election on February 9.
The real estate magnate, who leads the Republican field nationally, is fighting for a good showing in the lead-off states against several rivals, particularly Senator Ted Cruz.
Mr Trump’s proposal on Muslims has been condemned by Republicans and Democrats as un-American and counterproductive, yet the hardline approach to immigration has fuelled his popularity among the overwhelmingly white Republican primary electorate.
The new ad features dark images of the San Bernardino shooters, who were Muslims, and body bags.
“The politicians can pretend it’s something else. But Donald Trump calls it radical Islamic terrorism. That’s why he’s calling for a temporary shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until we can figure out what’s going on,” a narrator says.
Video footage later in the ad shows people apparently streaming freely across a border as the narrator says Mr Trump will “stop illegal immigrants by building a wall on our southern border that Mexico will pay for”.
Facing questions from news outlets, the Trump campaign acknowledged that the border images were of a Spanish enclave in Morocco, not the US-Mexican border.
“I think it’s irrelevant,” Mr Trump said in a TV interview. “So you can just take it any way you want, but it’s really merely a display of what a dumping ground is going to look like. And that’s what our country’s becoming very rapidly.”
His campaign said the selection of footage was intended “to demonstrate the severe impact of an open border and the very real threat Americans face if we do not immediately build a wall and stop illegal immigration”.
The ad, posted on Mr Trump’s website, is a departure from the typical introductory campaign spot, which often features a candidate introducing himself voters or sharing her life story.
But he is already well-known to voters, and as the star of the popular TV show The Apprentice, his name is plastered on high-rise and hotel buildings across the country and he has dominated news coverage over the last six months.
Republican pollster Frank Luntz, at times a Trump critic, predicted the new ad would help him among the slice of Republican voters who participate in early voting contests.
“This may not be a majority position in the country,” he said of the Muslim ban.
“It may not even be a majority position within the Republican Party, but among those who will vote in the caucuses and the primaries it is a popular position, and he will benefit from it.”