Anti-Trump GOP group spends big to shrink his base
An anti-Trump Republican group is increasing the millions of dollars it has already spent this fall to defeat election-conspiracy politicians.
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The nonprofit arm of the Republican Accountability Project is spending $3 million on ads starting on Monday in seven key swing states to remind voters of what happened on January 6, 2021. This is a message they hope will resonate with traditional Republican voters whom they hope to peel off from the Trump base of the party.
POLITICO has been given exclusive access to the group’s television and digital ad campaign, which features footage of Trump supporters beating police officers at the Capitol, as well as messages from self-identified Republicans opposing Trump and commentary from Liz Cheney the ranking member of the House Jan. 6 committee, who has defied her party to highlight Trump’s role in the Capitol attack.
In one of the commercials, Cheney states, “As Americans, we all have an obligation to guarantee that what happened on January 6 never happens again.” Advertisements will run over the next three weeks on local broadcast news in major markets in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania,
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and Wisconsin, all of which were decided by narrow margins in the 2020 presidential election (and where 2022 midterm races feature some of the most prominent election deniers in the country, like GOP gubernatorial nominees Doug Mastriano of Pennsylvania and Kari Lake of Arizona). Advertisements for RAP will be promoted on digital media in those states, and a representative for the organization has indicated that the ad buy may be extended.
Sarah Longwell, the executive director of the Republican Accountability Project, whose board is chaired by popular Never Trump critic Bill Kristol, said, “We’re really trying to make the Jan. 6 findings stick with swing voters.” The group’s primary objective is to persuade Republican voters to back a candidate other than Trump in the upcoming presidential election in 2024, seizing an opportunity within the Republican Party.
Recent straw polls at big conservative events show that Trump remains the clear preference among activists on the right, but regular GOP voters are less convinced. When pitted against a field of other Republican primary candidates, the former president received support from less than half of the respondents to a Siena College/New York Times poll conducted last month.
She claimed that Longwell’s group is actively seeking out supporters who can be persuaded to change their thoughts about Trump and the gravity of the attack on January 6. According to RAP’s focus groups and platform testing, Republican voters’ testimonies and video footage of Vice President Cheney leading the select committee are very effective in swaying the opinions of other Republicans.
As a result of exposing the films in question to voters, the organization “actually saw movement among these center-right supporters less breaking through than seeping in,” as Longwell put it. Longwell claims that her organization has “saw a real drop off, in focus groups, of individuals who want to see Trump run again in 2024” after the select committee began public hearings on January 6. While the January 6 committee is on hiatus until September, this organization hopes to fill the hole by continuing to raise awareness of the select committee’s findings during the month of August.
Similarly, the Republican Accountability PAC plans to spend $10 million on political ads this year to defeat candidates in 14 areas where Trump’s election fraud conspiracy theories have found support. Seven and a half million dollars have been collected thus far. The charity campaign’s ads, on the other hand, don’t single out any particular candidates but instead emphasize the date of January 6 and President Trump.
A number of people who identified themselves as “conservative” voters or “lifelong” or “former” Republicans produced video testimonials for the group to use during the 2020 election as Republican Voters Against Trump. According to Longwell, the most efficient strategy to reach Republican voters was to use testimony from people like those in their target demographic (whom RAP calls “trusted messengers” internally).
A voter named Tom explains what turned him off about the party on January 6 in one of the 30-second spots: “The assault on police officers, the destruction of property, the motive for being there to impede certification of the election.” Do you seriously doubt that Mike Pence would have been hung if they had located him? The people responsible for planning that terrible tragedy must be held accountable in some way.