The coalition of “Never Trump” Republicans fighting to oust President Trump from the White House is making a risky move, just as the president’s lackluster poll numbers are raising concerns to the right: They are also chasing Republican senators.
The effort is being led by The Lincoln Project, an expert media team that spends most of its time beating up the acting president with scathing television and digital ads.
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But along with attacking Trump, The Lincoln Project is now influencing the careers of Republican senators facing tough re-elections this year.
“Governor Steve Bullock did a great job for Montana and in the United States Senate, he will show them what strong Montana looks like,” says a new digital and television ad the group introduced last week in Montana, as they endorsed to Democrats. The Governor’s offer in the Senate against current Republican Senator Steve Daines.
The spot characterizes Daines, who faces a tough re-election challenge for Bullock, as a “do nothing, say nothing political.”
On Monday, The Lincoln Project targeted Senator Susan Collins of Maine for her controversial 2018 vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“Kavanaugh tried to knock down a 4-year precedent, but instead knocks down Susan Collins’ 24-year Senate career,” the group tweeted, signaling Kavanaugh’s vote against a four-year precedent in Monday’s ruling on a Louisiana abortion law.
The group used the tweet to highlight the situation for Collins, who is facing an extremely difficult reelection due in large part to his confirmation vote for Kavanaugh. This year, the Lincoln Project has also targeted Republican Sensors. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who also fight for their political lives.
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But the attacks come as Republicans desperately try to hold onto their majority in the Senate. The party currently controls chamber 53-47, but is defending 23 of the 35 seats in the chamber this November.
The strategy has some steaming Republican strategists.
“It is ridiculous to claim that a Republican-backed effort would try to change the Senate to Democrats,” veteran Republican communications strategist Matt Mackowiak told Fox News. “Basically, there are zero Republicans in the country who want to see a Democratic Senate.”
“If they were just focused on Trump, that would be one thing,” said Mackowiak, who supports the president.
He charged that “for me, it proves that this is a Democratic-funded effort. These operatives are being used to advance the Democrats’ political agenda. They are going to wrap themselves in moral superiority, but the net effect of all this is that they are giving Democrats everything they want and they are spending money from Democratic donors to do it. ”
Brian Walsh argued that The Lincoln Project is “taking it too far.” If you are also grouping together Republican senators who could legitimately serve as a necessary check and balance if the White House changes hands in November. It’s difficult to understand the strategy behind saying that you are inherently a Republican organization, but that you want to give Democrats full control of the government in November. “
“I think even for those who have concerns with the direction in which the president has taken the party, that’s a step too far,” said Walsh, a former NRSC communications director and former senior adviser to Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. and veteran of numerous campaigns of the Senate, the Congress and the government.
Rejecting the criticism, John Weaver, one of the co-founders of The Lincoln Project, noted that when they launched last December, the group announced that, along with being “dedicated to defeating President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box,” he also they would target Republican lawmakers who supported the president.
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“This president’s actions are possible only with the greed of Republicans in Congress,” the group wrote at the time. “Republicans in Congress embraced and copied Trump’s cruelty and defended and even adopted his corruption. Trump and his facilitators have abandoned conservatism and long-standing Republican principles and replaced it with Trumpism, an empty faith led by a false prophet. “
Weaver told Fox News that “if four or five members of the Republican Senate Conference had confronted Trump on a large number of issues, they would have cornered much of this.”
But he argued that many Republican lawmakers are “afraid of being tweeted and afraid of being nicknamed, and in doing so they have turned their backs on everything they claim to believe. They have turned their backs on compelling national security.” Politics, trade policy, the rule of law, defense of the Constitution, questions of character, apparently they should not worry about the importance of NATO or anything else because otherwise they would face Trump. “
When asked about the reviews, Weaver said there is “none that matters to us.”
The Lincoln Project was formed late last year by the well-known Never Trumpers. Among them are George Conway, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, and Republican consultants Weaver, Steve Schmidt and Rick Wilson. Weaver was also the chief political adviser to then-Ohio Governor John Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign.
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Trump has criticized The Lincoln Project, calling it “a group of RINO Republicans who seriously failed.”
The National Republican Senate Campaign (NRSC), which is the campaign arm of the Republican Senate Party, emphasized that “it is sad to see the media treating this pathetic democratic PAC scam seriously.”
“Just because a group of bitter and failed political consultants are lining their pockets by defrauding donors, doesn’t mean they deserve any attention for their lies,” said NRSC spokesman Nathan Brand.
Mackowiak argued that the efforts of the Lincoln Project “are not going to have any practical effect.”
“They know they don’t have the money to run saturation level television in these battlefield states or nationally. So they are doing a media replay to try to convince people that they are really smart and that they are making a difference, but they are not, “he accused.