What happened?

The Trump campaign for the 2020 presidential election has not started yet, as we recently explained. However, campaigning against Trump already began months ago. Many forces are trying to keep Trump from winning the elections in 2020, but one of the most striking attempts to do so stem from representatives of the Republican Party itself. Examples are the Republican Voters Against Trump and The Lincoln Project, which were both founded with the explicit goal of preventing the reelection of Donald Trump. Founders of the Lincoln project even ran successful campaigns for Republican candidates before (like Bush senior and junior). The Lincoln Project has created a set of ads that have had a large number of views on social media (its founders are each reaching hundreds of thousands of social media followers with their own accounts) and are aired on conservative news channels such as Fox. For instance, its commercial called “Mourning in America,” riffing off Ronald Reagan’s 1984 “Morning in America” campaign, was aired in May during Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show.

What does this mean?

The main reason why Trump faces this unprecedented opposition from his own party is that multiple famous Republicans consider him a danger – a threat to the Republican party, to the constitution, to the country. One of the arguments the campaign brings up is that Trump has proved to be unqualified to deal with the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting economic downturn. The goal is thus to convince just enough disaffected Republican voters that it is in the best interest of the nation – even of Republican voters – to support the Democratic candidate Joe Biden. The Lincoln Project aims to win over 3-5% of Republicans in certain states, to assure them that it is OK to change their mind. The Republican Voters Against Trump group has a different strategy. Instead of flashy and funny ads, it has collected hundreds of testimonials from 2016 Trump voters who are planning to vote for Biden in 2020 and airs them in swing states, trying to persuade with real, uncut voices. Interestingly, endorsements from individuals were also part of Obama’s strategy, and seem effective in persuading voters during a time when trust in conservative institutions or notable politicians is low – especially among Republican voters.

What’s next?

It remains to be seen whether these ads and testimonials are persuasive enough to get inside the heads of voters to affect the election. However, the Hillary Clinton defeat taught us how even small gains can mean the difference between a Republican and Democratic win. Furthermore, Lincoln Project co-founder Reed Galen has explained that the ads have already been successful at getting inside Trump’s head. The Lincoln Project ads garnered so much attention that Trump personally responded by tweeting and addressing the matter to reporters, which in turn has helped the campaign to gain attention and donations. As a result, the group has sufficient funds to better target Trump’s supporters in tight Senate races.