July 11, 2020


The once-mocked 'Never Trump' movement becomes a sudden campaign force (Ashley Parker and Robert Costa, July 11, 2020, Washington Post)

[T]he leading members of the anti-Trump bloc believe they can be helpful to Biden by sharply attacking Trump on divisive and controversial topics that campaigns typically avoid, such as the president's physical health. The Biden campaign, for its part, sees little downside to these outside groups going after the president, an official said.

And unlike in 2016, when many of them bandied around independent candidate Evan McMullin, whose campaign failed to dent Trump, their work this time is aimed on damaging Trump's standing rather than on offering a Republican alternative or challenging Trump at the party's convention.

Other groups in the anti-Trump wing include Right Side PAC, which is led by Matt Borges, former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party and advised by former Trump White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, a financier who has become a Trump critic. And there is 43 Alumni for Biden, formed by officials who worked in the George W. Bush administration.

The Lincoln Project was founded by Republican strategists John Weaver, Rick Wilson, Steve Schmidt and former New Hampshire Republican Party chair Jennifer Horn. Lawyer George T. Conway III, who is married to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, is also involved.

Republican Voters Against Trump, which was founded by longtime conservative and self-described "Never Trumper" Sarah Longwell, has concentrated almost entirely on sharing testimonials from traditional Republicans who voted for Trump in 2016, but are planning -- sometimes reluctantly -- to support Biden in November.

The group also includes William Kristol, a conservative commentator, Tim Miller, a Republican operative who worked on Jeb Bush's 2016 presidential campaign, and Mike Murphy, a longtime Republican strategist.

Longwell said she spent most of the three years following Trump's election trying to understand what happened and conducting focus groups with voters who supported Trump in 2016 but now rate his performance in office as "somewhat bad" or "very bad." As her group began testing ads, they quickly realized that slick commercials were often less persuasive than raw testimonials from fellow Republicans with similar doubts about the current president.

They worked for several months to recruit 100 first-person testimonials, largely shot on smartphones -- but now they have more than 400 videos, many of them unsolicited.

"The ones that really stand out tend to the be the ones where someone is really grappling with the decision, someone saying, 'I've been a Republican my whole life, I'm passionate about this party, I'm passionate about these ideas, but I just can't vote for Donald Trump,'‚ÄČ" Longwell said. "It feels like they're getting something off their chest, and people really respond to that authenticity and the realness of that."

The group, which has begun airing testimonials on television and online in North Carolina and Arizona, plans to spend between $10 and $15 million and also go on the air in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and possibly Florida. Their target audience is largely white suburban women, a group that has already begun to move away from Trump.

On Sunday, Republican Voters Against Trump will air an ad during "Fox News Sunday," a program Trump frequently watches, in North Carolina and Arizona highlighting 15 Republicans who voted for Trump in 2016 but will now vote for Biden.

"It's okay to change your mind," the ad ends. "We did."

Posted by at July 11, 2020 7:28 PM