A group of former and current Republicans have stepped up their efforts to defeat President Donald Trump in reliably red Texas, a feat they say will move the country forward and help restore the GOP to what it was before Trump took control of it.
On Tuesday the Lincoln Project will announce Operation Sam Houston, a million-dollar effort that includes television and digital ads, according to a strategy shared with The Dallas Morning News.
The initiative comes a week after the Lincoln Project bolstered its mobilization of Hispanic voters in Texas, including hosting a Spanish language roundtable last week co-sponsored by the voting rights groups Mi Familia Vota and UnidosUS Action Fund.
“Texas has been moving towards a swing state for many cycles now,” Lincoln Project co-founder Mike Madrid said. “Donald Trump has dramatically accelerated that trend.”
But Samantha Cotten, the spokesperson in Texas for Trump’s campaign, said the president wasn’t worried about the Lincoln Project.
“Disgruntled losers looking for a quick buck do not concern us,” she said.
According to Advertising Analytics, the Lincoln Project has already spent just under $1 million in Texas, with $833,000 of that total coming the weeks of the Democratic and Republican conventions. The new ad push, according to Lincoln Project national press secretary Nate Nesbitt, will focus on “Trump’s malice and inhumanity in dealing with COVID, specifically that he knew the dangers in February and consistently lied about it.”
“And knew he was exposed and chose to expose others rather than quarantining,” Nesbitt said.
Trump on Monday was released from Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Washington after being treated for COVID-19. He’s part of a cornavirus outbreak that ensnarled first lady Melania Trump, top aide Hope Hicks, former counselor Kellyanne Conway and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
Nesbitt said the Lincoln Project’s latest activity would be directed at 600,000 suburban and rural Republican women and also focus on Trump’s “extremism and racism.”
Madrid said the “polling data is undeniable” and that “Republican voters are leaving Trump to vote for Biden. He added that Democrats are historically energized to unseat the president.
“The Lincoln Project has been watching this state closely for weeks and we’ve decided we’re not going to watch any longer,” he said. “Republicans are asking us to engage and now we are.”
A recent poll by The News and the University of Texas-Tyler shows a tight presidential race in Texas, with Trump holding a narrow lead over Biden.
A Democratic presidential candidate hasn’t won Texas since 1976, when Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford here in route to winning the White House.
In 2016, Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Texas by nine percentage points, a margin that gives anti-Trump forces hope that Biden can pull off the Lone Star upset.
Madrid said Trump needs 100 percent of GOP support to win reelection, so the Lincoln Project is working to siphon votes from the Republican base.
“We know better than anybody how to compete for Republican voters. And we know that the Republican Party has shrunk so much during the Trump era,” Madrid said, adding that it would be tough for Trump to get enough Republican votes to beat Biden.
Madrid said Lincoln Project members are reaching a cross-section of former and current Republican voters in Texas, including military veterans, college-educated voters, suburban voters, women and other demographic groups.
“We know the effort is working,” he said. “In the next 30 days we’re going to bring this race home … Texas is in basically a coin-toss state at this point.”
Still, Republicans backing Trump said the president would win Texas.
“Let them spend their money,” Dallas County Republican Party Chairman Rodney Anderson said. “The outcome of the 2020 election in Texas will see Texas remain red. I believe that with all of my heart.”
Anderson said the overwhelming majority of Republican voters will not relate to Biden or his policies.
He said the violence and looting seen this year amid the calls for racial justice would result in voters embracing Trump’s call for law and order.
Most of the protests against police brutality and for social justice have been peaceful.
“They know that those individuals and the party they represent will not keep their families strong, safe and secure,” Anderson said.
Anderson added that Lincoln Project supporters voted against Trump in 2016, so their opposition today is already baked into the process. Many Lincoln Project members in Texas are former supporters of former President George W. Bush.
Lionel Sosa, a former media consultant for presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, conceded that he didn’t support Trump in 2016, partly because of what he described as hostile and insulting rhetoric about Hispanics.
But Sosa said there are some Republicans who backed Trump in 2016 that would not be with him in November.
“I have never supported him from the beginning,” Sosa said. “I think he’s a clown and that he’s not even close to what a Republican president, or any president, should be, whether it’s for Latinos or anybody else.”
Last week Sosa became part of a new Hispanic Steering Committee that will help push Biden in Texas and other states.
“Will we vote for Biden?” the longtime Republican asked rhetorically. “For me, absolutely yes.”
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