“Four of the greatest American presidents are carved out of living rock in the Black Hills of South Dakota. They are a memorial to those who have served with honor, “said the narrator in a video posted on Twitter, before adding:” The worst president of the United States will not be remembered or revered. ”
Criticism of the most polarizing president in modern American history is common. But the video is unusual because it was created by the Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans who worked for former presidents George Bush and George W Bush, but are now trying to help Democratic candidate Joe Biden beat Mr. Trump in the November presidential election.
“We are like the French resistance. We are blowing up the supply lines, ”said John Weaver, a former Republican political advisor and one of the group’s co-founders, who is named after President Abraham Lincoln.
While Trump still enjoys a high approval rate among Republican voters, some members of the GOP establishment are dissatisfied with his actions in power, including his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and rising racial tensions after the murder of George Floyd.
The Lincoln Project is one of many anti-Trump Republican groups to emerge before the election. Others include Republican Voters Against Trump, which includes several former senior officials from ex-governor Jeb Bush, and “Right Side,” founded by Matt Borges, a former president of the Republican Party of Ohio to persuade Republicans of the major swing states to support Mr. Biden. But he caught the most attention after his videos sparked an angry reaction from Mr. Trump.
Its founders are Jennifer Horn, a former leader of the New Hampshire Republican Party, and Reed Galen, who worked for former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The group has not released its fundraising figures for the second quarter, but according to the Federal Election Commission, it raised more than $ 2.5 million in late March.
Mr. Weaver said he hoped politicians would lead the charge against Mr. Trump, but lost hope. “We had been in confabs where the Conservatives were shaking hands and sipping Chardonnay and saying the constitution was being torn apart, but no one was doing anything about it,” he said.
The Lincoln Project employs approximately 25 people who are able to respond quickly to events as they do not respond to a candidate or a campaign team.
When Trump was criticized this week for ignoring reports that Russia was paying the Taliban to kill Americans in Afghanistan, the group quickly released two videos suggesting he was a puppet of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
In May, they managed to put themselves under the skin of Mr. Trump with “Mourning in America”, a video accusing him of having ignored Covid-19, which had then killed 60,000 people in the country. It was a play on the optimistic “Morning in America” ad that former President Ronald Reagan used in his successful re-election campaign in 1984.
The attack so annoyed Trump that he lambasted the founders by name on Twitter in the middle of the night and described the entire group as “losers from Rino” – a disparaging nickname that means “Republican of name only “.
The Lincoln Project created 30 videos to try to persuade Republicans to abandon Trump. They garnered 120 million views in June on Twitter.
Weaver said the group’s activity on Twitter was “the tip of the iceberg.” It also uses other traditional means to reach voters who may change. But he said the platform allowed him to attract an “audience of” to Mr. Trump, a prolific Twitter user. Weaver said they wanted “the reptiles’ brains to react to something they hate or fear” in the hopes of provoking an inflammatory response that would help them raise funds.
Other strategies include advertising on local television networks when the president travels outside Washington, knowing that he watches a lot of television.
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After releasing “Mourning in America”, he spent $ 5,000 to broadcast the video on a Fox show called Tucker Carlson tonight the President is watching. According to Weaver, the Lincoln project raised $ 2 million after Mr. Trump, clearly agitated, responded furiously on Twitter.
“If it was a campaign, he would be our biggest donor and we would name him ambassador to Slovenia,” he joked.
Right-wing Borges said he reluctantly voted for Trump in 2016 in hopes that he would be more measured in power than in the election campaign, but concluded that the president was “much worse.” than what people feared ”. “The idea that there would be guardrails around him has completely disappeared,” he said.
Right Side, which includes Anthony Scaramucci, the former White House communications director, aims to raise $ 10 million and is on the verge of reaching its first million, said Borges.
His research showed that a significant number of Republicans were interested in an alternative to Mr. Trump, and the choice of Democrats from Mr. Biden over a progressive like Bernie Sanders made it easier to convince them to support the candidate. from the rival party, he said. A recent poll shows that Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump into virtually every swing state that the President won four years ago.
“I have to take a crack. . . to eliminate cancer from the White House, “said Borges.
Lincoln Project also plans to keep up the pressure. “We have things in the missile silo that we haven’t launched,” said Weaver. To remind Trump, the group tweeted this week: “Current location: United States of America. Current activity: Trolling the president. ”
Follow Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter: @dimi