WASHINGTON — With just three days left until the election, President Trump’s enemies are seeing new opportunities in staunchly red states. The Lincoln Project, a conservative-led political action committee dedicated to eroding President Trump’s support among Republicans, announced on Saturday that it is buying over $1 million of ads in Georgia, Montana and South Carolina in the final days of the presidential race.
Ron Steslow, a veteran GOP consultant and Lincoln Project co-founder, said the fact that these states could go against Trump shows “just how badly the president is doing all over the country.”
“These states never should have been on the map. They never should have been in play for Democrats in the first place,” Steslow said. “This just speaks to the massive coalition of voters that is coming together to repudiate Trumpism ... the country is turning against him.”
The ad buy, first reported by Yahoo News, will include a mix of digital and television commercials.
Trump is trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in national polls and many key swing states. However, the three states being targeted by the Lincoln Project are far from traditional presidential battlegrounds. Georgia and Montana have not backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992, when they both went for Bill Clinton. South Carolina hasn’t gone blue in a presidential race since 1976.
Polls currently show Trump’s Democratic Party opponent ahead by an average of less than 1 percentage point in Georgia. Trump is leading in South Carolina, where polls this month have him ahead by an average of 7.5 points, and in Montana, where he’s averaging an 8-point lead this month.
All three states are playing host to competitive Senate races. In South Carolina, polls have shown Democrat Jaime Harrison an average of 4.5 points behind Republican incumbent Lindsey Graham this month. The Palmetto State has not had a Democratic senator since 2005.
In Georgia, a spate of polls this month have shown Democrat Jon Ossoff with a razor-thin lead over Republican incumbent David Perdue. Georgia also has not had a Democratic senator in over 15 years.
Montana’s Senate delegation is currently split, and Republican incumbent Steve Daines is leading the state’s Democratic governor, Steve Bullock, by an average of just over 2 points this month.
Steslow, the Lincoln Project co-founder, attributed the tight races to the fact that “Trump has become a drag on his own Republican Senate candidates.”
“I think it speaks to the trajectory of, not just the presidential race, but the trajectory of the American people and their attitudes towards Trump and what he stands for,” said Steslow.
Tim Murtaugh, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign, dismissed the Lincoln Project’s spending in the three red states with three words: “Waste of money.”
In South Carolina, the Lincoln Project will air an ad painting Graham as “Donald Trump’s sycophant.” The group’s ad in Montana doesn’t mention Trump and frames Bullock as “the right choice” for the state’s Senate seat. In Georgia, the Lincoln Project is airing two of its anti-Trump ads that blast his response to the coronavirus pandemic. A spokesperson for the group said the blitz in the three states is specifically targeting rural voters and seniors online.
The Lincoln Project’s ads, which have featured blunt criticisms of the president, have drawn substantial attention — including the ire of Trump himself — during the race. Despite its efforts to take on Trump, the group has also sparked criticism from liberals who argue it is an attempt to earn conservatives influence in the event of a Biden victory.
While the numbers do look positive for Biden, progressives and other Trump opponents remain worried about the outcome of the race as the president and his allies have undertaken efforts to undermine and curtail the counting of the record numbers of mail-in ballots that have been cast as voters stayed home due to the pandemic.
Trump has also raised concerns by repeatedly refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose. Steslow echoed these fears as he assessed the race in its final days.
“We are cautiously optimistic that Biden will win, that we will vote, that Donald Trump will lose and that he will go,” said Steslow. “But we are not taking our foot off the gas pedal and we are not going to rest until Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20th.”
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