Polling results continue to suggest that President Donald Trump isn’t scoring as expected in comparison to candidates running for reelection in previous years. Even with these projections, however, many within the political sphere remain skeptical as a result of state polling in 2016 that indicated Hillary Clinton’s advantage over Donald Trump where it wasn’t the case. As a result, political groups are seeking insurance that the presidency is not conceded to the incumbent president.
One of the most noteworthy oppositions to his reelection is the Republican party’s increasing number of members advocating against him. With the intent to call on more conservative voters to vote Democrat, multiple coalitions have been born out of a desire to strengthen former Vice President Joe Biden’s candidacy in key states in order to defeat his opponent.
According to political consultant Fernando Espuelas, Trump has redefined the Republican party in a way that has left its constituents thinking that there is a significant portion of their electorate that can be mobilized against him. However, through his work with American Latinos United, he points out that recent polling shows segments of the electorate seemingly ready to support him for reelection as he outperforms the percentage of Latino votes he received in 2016. Under this lens, groups are mobilizing to sway voters supporting his candidacy.
“Are we going to turn all Hispanic Republicans against Trump? No,” said Espuelas in an interview with BELatina. “What we need to do is shave off one or two percentage points and increase the vote of others who haven’t voted in the past. That creates [a sort of] insurance policy that he can’t win because, from our perspective, Republicans have invested significant amounts of money in this Hispanic Republican base but they’re not in a very strong position to defend it. If we attack the Trump campaign by shaving off that level of support, it’s very difficult for him to make it up with other voters.”
The super PACs
One Republican super PAC funded by high-profile GOP dissidents has garnered attention from Donald Trump on Twitter. The Lincoln Project has released several anti-Trump ads criticizing the administration’s response to current events through networks such as Fox News, prompting attention from right-wing voters and pushing support for Biden.
In an article they wrote for The New York Times, they stated that their purpose is to persuade swing states and districts to help ensure an end to the president’s constitutional violations “even if that means Democratic control of the Senate and an expanded Democratic majority in the House.”
The most recent group to emerge has been 43 Alumni for Biden (a reference to the 43th president) which was formed by a large number of former Bush officials to rally dissatisfied GOP voters. The group’s director told NPR that, although they don’t fully support his political agenda, they’re choosing to endorse Biden in agreement that there’s “an urgent need to restore the soul of this nation.”
Alongside super PACs, individual Republicans are also being vocal about their opposition — some of which have been part of his administration. Former national security adviser John Bolton has continually expressed that Donald Trump doesn’t operate on the basis of philosophy, grand strategy, nor even policy but rather on the basis of his own interests while promoting his controversial new book exposing the misconducts of the Trump administration.
Similarly, Republican Voters Against Trump have made their mark through their initiative Defending Democracy Together. In recent weeks, they launched a $10 million ad campaign that displays disaffected GOP voters who say they are not voting for Trump; including many who voted for him in the 2016 elections. The executive director of the nonprofit told CNN that the ads initially target the six swing states: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Arizona.
Focusing on swing states
A big part of the reason most of these movements are directing funding towards audiences within these six crucial states is because of the lessons learned during the 2016 election. Proving that strength isn’t necessarily in the numbers, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes but didn’t win the presidency because of the electoral college.
This is where the strength and focus of the Trump campaign lies; knowing his success isn’t dependent on majority support, the messaging and effort is focused on obtaining the support of these states. If he’s able to do that again, mathematically, he’ll win. “When you look at those states,” says Espuelas, “you’ll start to see that the electorate isn’t just Democrats versus Republicans — it’s actually very fragmented.”
Since campaigning for this year’s election cycle has gone virtual because of COVID-19, media has served as the main vehicle to get these messages across to widespread audiences. This means that it reaches all kinds of demographics — including those who are on the fence or undecided.
By creating reels that use real pictures and imagery to be juxtaposed with spoken words candidates have said publicly, they generate a more personal impact that is designed to sway or spark a conversation. The Lincoln Project reported that their anti-Trump commercial aired on Fox News helped the group raise over $1.4 million dollars. The president’s comments about the movement on Twitter have only made the organization garner more followers, attention, and donations.
“What I think is happening is that these efforts are creating a psychological impact on the election,” said Espuelas. “Normally for Republicans, one of the big things that categorizes them is that they coalesce around a candidate, and certainly around a president. So, to see a group of them actively deciding they’re going to vote for a Democrat I think psychologically is a big blow to the president and his supporters.”
The common thread in the narratives of these initiatives are the lack of constitutional approaches during the Trump administration’s governance, especially in relation to the COVID-19 health crisis and recent Black Lives Matter protests. During these unprecedented times where the administration is under intense scrutiny, these behaviors and political strategies are sure to be a determining factor in what the future of these developments will look like.