The State Of California: The Lincoln Project

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By KCBS All News 106.9FM and 740AM

Poll after poll shows President Donald Trump trailing Democrat Joe Biden badly now, both nationally and in almost every key battleground state.

Meanwhile, voter approval of how the president is handling the coronavirus pandemic, and of his leadership in general, continues to plunge.

A small group of veteran Republican political strategists, including some well-known Californians, continues to hammer the president with a no-holds-barred ad campaign designed to defeat him. They are called The Lincoln Project, named, of course, for Abraham Lincoln, and they are so prolific, they’ve put out two new ads in the last few days, one attacking Trump over coronavirus and its toll among the elderly, the "Greatest Generation," and the other over the report that Vladimir Putin’s Russia was paying bounties for killing U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

Find out why Trump is tweeting “White Power” in just 59 seconds.

— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) June 28, 2020

For more on the Lincoln Project, we were joined on KCBS Radio’s "The State Of California" by Mike Madrid, a Republican strategist in Sacramento, former political director of the California Republican Party, senior advisor to the California Latino Economic Institute and one of the Republicans running the Lincoln Project.

How effective do you think your campaign has been?

I think your intro explained expressly how strong and effective The Lincoln Project has been. He’s at the lowest range he’s been at with Republicans in his presidency. A lot of that is a function of his own mismanagement, but the constant reminder in the minds of Americans and Republicans specifically is just how out of touch this president is. That’s being driven home by The Lincoln Project. You see the obvious results. I don’t think he’s had a very good direction with his campaign at all. I think he would probably have to acknowledge that. I think his polling numbers will probably go lower before they move upwards.

How have you dealt with the decision to campaign against a GOP president?

Keep in mind, the group of folks that we’re talking about, there are people that have operated at the very highest levels of Republican politics over the past 30 years. These are veterans of gubernatorial, presidential, U.S. Senate campaigns. We’re elected a huge number of members to the U.S. Senate and the United States Congress. While we did not take this endeavor lightly, it’s also the clear and obvious choice because we believe that our country is in a perilous threat at this moment because of the unconstitutionality and the instability of this president and perhaps, just importantly, the inability of the Republican U.S. Senators to protect us at the time of impeachment when we could have avoided the situation in its entirety. So we believe ourselves to be Constitutionalists, true classical conservatives who are very concerned about the rising populist nationalism on the American right and we feel obligated to engage with our skillset to make sure we protect the country’s Constitution as we see it.

How much coordination does The Lincoln Project have with Democrats or Joe Biden’s campaign?

We don’t have any. It wouldn’t be appropriate, wouldn’t be legal to coordinate directly with the campaign. We have obviously taken the advice and council of many unaffiliated Democrats with the campaign. Our focus, again, is in an area that we are specifically and uniquely in a position to affect, and that is the minds of Republican voters. We think that the Biden campaign’s job is to talk with Democrats and work with Independents to make sure they bring that vote home. But an unprecedented effort which has never been done before is you have some of the party’s highest-level operatives, Republican and Democrat, working to ensure the defeat of their own nominee. We have worked with the Republican coalition and Republican voters for decades, each of us positioned to do our job in a way Democrats can’t. That is to get the country back on stable footing.

What happens to you if Joe Biden wins?

That’s a really good question, though we haven’t spent a whole lot of time on it. Let me first say this, we believe there is an imminent threat to the country. We take this very seriously. I want your listeners to know this is a very serious endeavor. We’re not concerned about what happens to our livelihoods, our reputations, our namesakes after this. We have to protect our country at this moment in time. I don’t believe if Donald Trump loses by a big margin, that the Republican party will be able to recover. I think it will have to entirely recast and reform itself in a very different way. I think the Trump brand will be so toxic on the right, let alone with the average American, that there will be nothing to rebuild from. This all comes from the deviance from traditional conservatism towards nationalism. The populist threat is a very real one. So, it is a concern, but frankly it’s probably 10th on the list of 10 at this moment. We have a job to do. We think we’re doing a great job of it at this moment and we’re going to be successful at it going into November.

Do you foresee Republican turning on Trump as polling tanks?

You’re going to see a number of high-profile Republicans from the past, former Republicans, coming out in the very, very near future, very significant names in the Republican party and new ones. I do believe that when we start to see Donald Trump’s numbers fall into the mid-30s range, and I expect that they will, because July is going to be a brutal month for the president. COVID is exploding in red states, the economy is in shambles and in a lot of battleground areas, his numbers are likely headed further down. When that happens, he will become and anchor around the neck of Republicans from the U.S. Senate down to city council seats. I do believe you will probably see a break in an early August time frame and it will be too late for the party to recover. Unfortunately, they made a deal with the president to kind of toe the line regardless of what he was doing to the country. But, the party is reaping some of those nasty results.