Donald Trump has been out of the White House for more than half of a presidential term and is in greater legal peril than he’s ever been at any point in his life, yet his bond with Republican voters remains incredibly strong, a right wing political action committee named Win It Back has concluded.
The PAC — which The New York Times’ Jonathan Swan described as “a well funded group of anti-Trump conservatives” — has been fruitlessly searching for arguments against Trump’s 2024 candidacy that resonate with Republican voters, and it has come up completely empty, which won’t come as a surprise to many progressive and Democratic strategists who keep an eye on current dynamics.
A memo sent by Win It Back’s top operative David McIntosh, which the New York Times got a hold of and published, “acknowledges to donors that after extensive testing of more than 40 anti-Trump television ads, ‘all attempts to undermine his conservative credentials on specific issues were ineffective.’ ”
“Every traditional post-production ad attacking President Trump either backfired or produced no impact on his ballot support and favorability,” McIntosh wrote.
“This includes ads that primarily feature video of him saying liberal or stupid comments from his own mouth. The best performing ads include non-scripted Republicans sharing reservations in their own words that touch on the themes and broadly acceptable messaging mentioned above. Notably, when the same testimonial-type of ad provides commentary on a specific issue in President Trump’s record, they are largely ineffective,” McIntosh added.
Some ads were worse than ineffective — they actually helped increase Trump’s support, according to message testing conducted by Win It Back. Yes, you read that right: some of the group’s ads made the “Teflon Don” problem worse!
You can read the memo yourself below:Win It Back memo on challenging Donald Trump
“The memo will provide little reassurance to the rest of the field of Mr. Trump’s Republican rivals that there is any elusive message out there that can work to deflate his support,” Swan suggested in his writeup for the New York Times.
Polling has, as many Cascadia Advocate readers are likely aware, suggested for months that the 2024 Republican presidential nomination is Trump’s to lose.
But this memo is just striking. It’s a really important piece of evidence that backs up the body of available polling. After producing more than forty television ads tested in twelve in-person focus groups and four online randomized controlled experiments, Win It Back hasn’t been able to find any really potent arguments against Donald Trump with Republican voters. It’s an ominous piece of news for the Republican field, including the seven candidates who debated last night.
“Candidates on the debate stage should not be afraid to attack Donald Trump,” New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu argued just a few weeks ago in an August essay for The New York Times’ Opinion section. “While it’s true that Mr. Trump has an iron grip on more than thirty percent of the electorate, the other sixty percent or so is open to moving forward with a new nominee.”
Last night, pretty much the whole field took Sununu’s advice. Even Ron DeSantis took swings at Donald Trump. But getting something, anything, to stick — well, Win It Back’s research suggests that is going to be really, really, really difficult.
Even if the field were to shrink, leaving Republican voters with just one major alternative to Trump, it’s hard to see that rival candidate getting traction.
Trump’s operation is so confident it’s got this that it has publicly suggested the RNC quit holding presidential debates because Trump’s nomination is inevitable.
“Chris LaCivita, a senior adviser to Trump’s campaign, called on the Republican National Committee to scrap all future primary debates so that the party and its candidates can coalesce behind Trump and turn their focus to defeating President Joe Biden in 2024,” McClatchy reported in an article filed by Max Greenwood.
The message to the RNC is clear: Trump is your master. Bow down and accord Donald the deference he would get if he were the incumbent.
Although it hasn’t changed its name, the Republican Party no longer looks or functions like a major political party anymore, let alone one committed to republicanism and democracy. It has instead become a dangerous cult that worships a wannabe autocrat — Donald Trump. It matters not that Trump’s presidency was a disaster, that he tried to overthrow the government of the United States by inciting an insurrection, or that he’s at risk of losing key symbolic assets like Trump Tower due to his fraudulent business practices.
It also doesn’t matter that Trump is a pathological liar and narcissist who manipulates people and pushes their buttons to get what he wants. Republican voters seem ready to forgive any transgression and dismiss any evidence that Trump doesn’t actually care about what they care about, or share their values.
Win It Back concluded that the only messengers many Republicans will take seriously are voters who profess to have previously supported Donald Trump.
“It is essential to disarm the viewer at the opening of the ad by establishing that the person being interviewed on camera is a Republican who previously supported President Trump; otherwise, the viewer will automatically put their guard up, assuming the messenger is just another Trump-hater whose opinion should be summarily dismissed,” McIntosh explained in a section titled “key learnings.”
Win It Back is hoping to have the opportunity to “maximize an alternative candidate’s ballot share when the field begins to consolidate.”
But that consolidation may not happen until Trump has the 2024 nomination all locked up. Unlike the Democratic Party, which consistently uses proportional representation, many Republican Party nominating events are winner-take-all, especially after the early states have gone, which makes it much easier for a frontrunner to sew up the delegates they need to get the nomination.
Trump owes his remarkable resiliency in large part to his eligibility for the presidency in 2024. Republicans in Congress, and specifically in the United States Senate, had an opportunity to seriously weaken Trump by convicting him of inciting an insurrection and then voting to bar him from holding office again.
This could have happened in early 2021, after Trump had left office, at the conclusion of Trump’s second impeachment trial.
Had Mitch McConnell chosen to provide the Republican votes necessary to convict Trump, Trump could have been booted from the 2024 arena with the adoption of a motion in the Senate to disqualify him as a future candidate for federal office. This would have paved the way for someone like Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, or Vivek Ramaswamy to win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Instead, like Kevin McCarthy, who had made a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to get back into Trump’s good graces, McConnell sided with Trump.
Seven Republicans, of their own volition, voted to convict Trump back in February of 2021. (Presumably, they also would have voted to bar Trump from running again.) All it would have taken to get the job done would have been ten more Republican votes: McConnell and nine other Republican other senators. That would have yielded sixty-seven votes to convict, meeting the two-thirds threshold.
McConnell’s fecklessness then is certainly having powerful repercussions now. Despite access to ample resources, anti-Trump forces aren’t finding anything that can really stick to “Teflon Don,” as McIntosh conceded. 2015–2016 may not be exactly repeating itself, but it’s rhyming, as the popular saying goes. As in life, nothing is certain in politics, but if there is a path to the Republican nomination for anyone other than Donald Trump, it’s not one that we can see right now.