GOP group plans most aggressive anti-Trump campaign yet
John Kasich has attacked Donald Trump relentlessly in debates and now his super PAC is planning to invest $2.5 million in the most aggressive takedown of the poll leader yet — on behalf of an increasingly anxious GOP establishment.
The attack, according to a blueprint shared with POLITICO, will play out over the next two months on radio, TV, mail and online in New Hampshire. Strategists with the pro-Kasich group, called New Day for America, say the budget for the anti-Trump campaign is likely to grow.
The offensive comes as some in the GOP are beginning to plot how to combat the real estate mogul and entertainer, who many are convinced would essentially deliver the White House to Democrats if he were the nominee. In launching the effort, the group hopes to position Kasich, who has lagged in the Republican contest and is searching for momentum, as a central Trump antagonist.
“We will be the tip of the spear against Trump,” said Matt David, a spokesman for the super PAC.
Rather than go after Trump for his business dealings or his past support for liberal causes, as some of his opponents have tried to do, the super PAC will depict Trump as someone who would be a deeply ineffective commander-in-chief and ill-suited for the demands of the Oval Office.
Fred Davis, the group’s colorful Hollywood-based ad-maker who is best-known for producing the “Demon Sheep” ad in the 2010 California Senate race, is working on a pair of anti-Trump TV ads. The commercials, David said, are designed to “accelerate what we believe would be buyers’ remorse” that would arise from a Trump presidency.
The group’s first volley came Thursday, when it released an ad that pictured the billionaire side by side with President Barack Obama. “On the job training for president does not work,” says the ad, which invokes last week’s tragic Paris terrorist attacks. The group is currently spending about $600,000 to air the commercial, though David said more airtime is being purchased.
For all the nervousness about Trump’s candidacy, however, few in the GOP have directed resources toward defeating him. Prominent Republican groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Karl Rove-founded American Crossroads, both establishment vehicles, have not spent any money against Trump. (In September and the beginning of October, the Club for Growth, an anti-tax group, spent $1 million to air a pair of TV commercials in Iowa that criticized the front-runner. The group has not done any since.)
Yet with the Iowa caucuses just a little more than two months away, and with Trump still riding high, the calculus may be changing. This week, as top party operatives and donors gathered in Las Vegas for the Republican Governors Association meeting, many contributors privately expressed unease about Trump’s consistent lead in early state and national polling.
Trump responded to the news by lashing out at Kasich on Twitter.
“I want to do negative ads on John Kasich, but he is so irrelevant to the race that I don’t want to waste my money,” Trump wrote in one tweet.
In launching the campaign, the pro-Kasich group says it is responding to money players who are eager to take Trump’s campaign down.
“Essentially, our donors are saying, ‘Enough is enough. Someone needs to take a stand,’” David said.
In the months leading up to the New Hampshire primary, which Kasich has made his focus, the group plans to air a mix of ads — some that attack Trump, some that contrast Trump with Kasich, and some that promote Kasich.
Kasich’s record as a two-term Ohio governor and as a House Budget Committee chairman, David argued, would make for a perfect contrast with Trump’s history of bombast. The two, he said, are “polar opposite.”
“Kasich isn’t going to make a promise he can’t keep,” David said.