Prominent conservatives who worked to oust Donald Trump in 2020 are back — with a plan to spend at least $10 million to defeat candidates who embraced the former president’s conspiracy theories about that election.
The group of conservatives, the Republican Accountability PAC, has identified G.O.P. candidates whose extreme views its leaders deem dangerous to the future of American democracy.
In 14 races across six key swing states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the group has decided to throw its weight behind those candidates’ Democratic opponents.
The PAC has already claimed a hand in several victories in Republican primaries — notably, the incumbent Brad Raffensperger’s win against Jody Hice, the Trump-backed candidate in the Georgia secretary of state race.
In the remaining major primaries, it plans to spend heavily to bolster Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, whose leading role in the House investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol has made her a villain and a turncoat to many on the right.
Donald Trump, Post-Presidency
The former president remains a potent force in Republican politics.
- Grip on G.O.P.: Donald J. Trump is still a looming figure in his party. However, there are signs his control is loosening.
- Losing Support: Nearly half of G.O.P. primary voters prefer someone other than Mr. Trump for president in 2024, a Times/Siena College poll showed.
- Looking for Cover: Republicans are bracing for Mr. Trump to announce an unusually early 2024 bid, a move intended in part to shield him from the damaging revelations emerging from the Jan. 6 investigations.
- Endorsement Record: While Mr. Trump has helped propel some G.O.P. candidates to primary victories, he’s also had notable defeats. Here’s where his record stands so far in 2022.
- A Modern-Day Party Boss: Hoarding cash, doling out favors and seeking to crush rivals, Mr. Trump is behaving like the head of a 19th-century political machine.
Elsewhere, the group expects to focus on portraying Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, as well outside the mainstream of G.O.P. politics.
And it will do so by finding what Sarah Longwell, a longtime Republican strategist and a leading organizer of various anti-Trump initiatives including the Republican Accountability PAC, called “credible messengers” — voters who resemble the college-educated, suburban moderates who are without a home in either major party.
Longwell, who runs a podcast for The Bulwark called “The Focus Group,” has drawn on her team’s research on what motivates this constituency in particular, which has little appetite for the often crude, aggressive form of campaigning that Trump has fostered across the Republican Party.
Longwell’s barometer for who qualifies as an anti-democracy Republican isn’t just whether Trump has issued an endorsement, but whether they echo the former president’s conspiratorial views on elections. She has little interest in parsing whether Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, for instance, has a more nuanced position on the integrity of the 2020 election than, say, Blake Masters in Arizona.
“There are not people in these races who are, you know, running as post-Trump candidates,” she said.
Watching for Trump’s role
Longwell acknowledges the difficulty of the task at hand, given President Biden’s unpopularity and Americans’ widespread public anger over the price of gas and groceries. But she said the political environment could shift if Trump jumps into the 2024 fray before the midterms — a move that would instantly “put Trump on the ballot” and perhaps push a significant fraction of Republican voters to shun the most-Trump-leaning candidates.
One important criterion for Longwell for jumping into a race is the quality of the Democratic nominee — Republicans will find it easier to support moderate candidates, in the mold of Biden’s 2020 run, than it is to back Bernie Sanders-style progressives.
With a little over four months to go before Election Day, Longwell’s team has raised $6 million so far. It plans to run ads targeting potentially persuadable Republicans on digital platforms, as well as via direct mail, billboards, TV and radio.
Longwell is prioritizing many of the same areas a previous version of the group, Republican Voters Against Trump, homed in on in 2020: places like Bucks and Dauphin counties in Pennsylvania and Pima County in Arizona, which are teeming with frustrated Republicans who may have voted in past elections for John McCain or Mitt Romney.
Part of the challenge, Longwell acknowledged, is to create a “permission structure” for these voters to break with their party.
“People are very tribal, they’re very partisan,” Longwell said. “And they’re frustrated, nationally, with Democrats, right?”
What to read tonight
Cassidy Hutchinson’s electrifying testimony last month before the House committee investigating the Capitol riot has jolted top Justice Department officials into discussing the politically sensitive topic of Donald Trump more directly, at times in the presence of Attorney General Merrick Garland, Katie Benner and Glenn Thrush report.
Democrats in Congress, under pressure to act after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, are planning to hold doomed votes this week on legislation seeking to preserve access to abortions.
Can states that ban abortions also forbid residents to travel to get the procedure? Adam Liptak explores the newly urgent question of a constitutional right to travel.
The chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, said she would step down next month, which will allow Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, to appoint a replacement who could be friendlier to the party as lawmakers in Albany continue to codify and consider stronger laws on guns and abortion.
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