When Steve Schmidt, the former senior campaign strategist in John McCain’s losing 2008 bid for the presidency, was asked why he helped found the Lincoln Project, he said nearly all that needed to be said about his political philosophy: “The analogy would be in the same way that fire purifies the forest, it needs to be burned to the ground and fundamentally repudiated. Every one of them [senators who support the president] should be voted out of office, with the exception of Mitt Romney.”
Schmidt was a nominal Republican, but when he saw that nominal Republicans like himself were losing favor in Washington, he left the party, calling it “the party of Trump.”
Another disaffected Republican, Jennifer Horn, who tried twice to win a House seat in New Hampshire but failed and who now serves on the board of the Lincoln Project, confirmed the group’s purpose: “The only way to make sure that Trumpism doesn’t continue to rule the Republican Party for years to come is to make sure that we defeat not only the president but [also] those people [senators] who have enabled him.”
Founded by Schmidt, Horn, George Conway (husband of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway), and several others with experience in consulting losing political campaigns, the group not only endorses Joe Biden for president, it’s also focusing its resources on senators whom they think have betrayed the Republican Party by supporting the president.
The Washington Times exposed the hypocrisy of the group, which became apparent almost immediately after its founding in December 2019. It quoted its founders as insisting that “we [remain] broadly conservative in our politics and outlooks” but seek, through the project, to persuade “enough disaffected conservatives, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents” to defeat not only the president but Republican turncoat senators “even if that means Democratic control of the Senate and an expanded Democratic majority in the House.”
The Washington Times said it’s essentially a hissy-fit for being excluded from the halls of power under the Trump administration: “For these failed Republican operatives from the McCain-Romney wing of the party — who clearly resent [now] being on the outside looking in — all of that is a wholly acceptable trade-off in exchange for getting rid of Mr. Trump.”
Tim Murtaugh, the communications director for the president’s reelection campaign, called the tiny but noisy group a “pathetic little club of irrelevant and faux ‘Republicans’ who are upset that they’ve lost all of their power and influence inside the Republican Party.”
It’s tiny, but noisy. Through March it had raised about $2.6 million, and has spent about half of it, mostly on enriching those who founded the group. As OpenSecrets.org reported, the group “has come under scrutiny for funneling money to its advisory board members [while] spending relatively little [money] airing political ads to influence voters.” It added: “The group also hides some of its vendors by stealthily paying subcontractors, making it difficult to follow the money.” A spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Campaign (NRSC) called the Lincoln Project a “scam PAC” and accused its founders of “lining their own pockets” with its supporters’ contributions.
It’s noisy. For those interested, here’s one of its ads on YouTube — which almost laughably tries to blame unemployment caused by coronavirus lockdowns on President Trump, failing to note that before the lockdowns, the country had record low levels of unemployment — that illustrates the group’s opposition to the president. It’s already received more than 500,000 views.
But according to Jeffrey Lord, writing in the American Spectator, the group is having exactly the opposite effect it intends: It has exposed itself as not only made up of whiny RINOs and former Republicans, but “the people involved are utterly clueless that in fact they are helping the president. They have made themselves individually and collectively into the very symbol of what Americans have come to loathe about Washington … [which is] a town filled with ‘insiders’ who have nothing but contempt for the American people and whose sole objective is to play the insider game for profit.”
As NRSC spokesman Nathan Brand put it: “It’s sad to see the media treating this pathetic Democratic scam PAC seriously. Just because a group of bitter, failed political consultants are lining their own pockets by ripping off donors, doesn’t mean they deserve any attention for their lies.”
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