By Hannah Wiley
The Sacramento Bee
Now that the Lincoln Project has the nation’s attention with its ads baiting and attacking President Donald Trump, the political action committee is going grassroots.
To start, the Lincoln Project, founded by well-known conservatives late last year, is tapping veteran California Republicans to fundraise and volunteer for campaigns in a handful of states against GOP incumbents who the committee considers Trump sympathizers.
Among the 12 Californians joining the cause to make phone calls, build the network and raise some cash are Rosario Marin, treasurer under President George W. Bush, Cassandra Pye, a campaign consultant and former deputy chief of staff for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Cunneen, a former state assemblyman, San Diego Councilman Mark Kersey and political consultant Luis Alvarado.
Their targets include Republican Sens. Martha McSally of Arizona, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine.
“We’re trying to boot Trump and Trumpism,” said Lincoln Project co-founder and Sacramento-based Republican strategist Mike Madrid. “The first thing to get rid of is Trump. Then, get rid of the people who enabled him.”
The Lincoln Project is unsympathetic toward moderates, like Collins and Gardner, who, Madrid said, have failed to be the “voices of reason when faced with the toughest decisions” during Trump’s presidency.
“There are no moderates and cowards. There are only cowards,” Madrid said. “If you’re not willing to stand up to the party to protect the country, I don’t care what your political ideology is, you don’t belong in elected office.”
But what can California Republicans, who have lost power to Democratic supermajorities in both the state Senate and Assembly, and whose state party has crumbled since Schwarzenegger left office nearly 10 years ago, offer a fractured GOP during one of the most historic and consequential presidential races in modern history?
“That’s actually part of the message,” Madrid said. “If we don’t change our ways, what happened in California is going to happen in other states.”
Pye said that as Republican leaders, there’s a shared responsibility for “the fate of our democracy.”
“I don’t want to look back on this particular moment and wished I’d done more for my community and my country. And, for my children,” she said.
The strategy is to pluck a handful of Republicans from the Senate so that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., can no longer empower Trump with his plurality, Madrid said. The plan so far excludes House members, and the committee isn’t focused on statehouse races.
Though the committee formally launched in December, a slew of recent ads that have successfully riled up the White House and sent Trump on Twitter tirades against the “RINO” Republicans behind the hits has garnered fresh attention and donations for the committee.
“Most of the money raised by the RINO losers of the so-called ‘Lincoln Project’, goes into their own pockets,” Trump tweeted on May 5. “With what I’ve done on Judges, Taxes, Regulations, Healthcare, the Military, Vets (Choice!) & protecting our great 2A, they should love Trump. Problem is, I BEAT THEM ALL!”
The group so far has spent at least $3.95 million on TV and Facebook ads to bolster Democratic campaigns, including former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential pursuit.
The committee launched another ad against Trump on Thursday, comparing him to the Mount Rushmore presidents ahead of the president’s scheduled visit to the monument for the July 4 holiday.
“Four of America’s greatest presidents are carved into the living rock of South Dakota’s Black Hills,” the ad includes. “They are a memorial to those who served with honor, led with courage and took this great nation into the future. Their words, deeds and legacies will survive time in memorial. America’s worst president will neither be remembered nor revered.”
Members of the so-called California Leadership team are spearheading what Madrid said will eventually be a multi-state initiative to rinse Washington, D.C. of Trump Republicanism. From there, anti-Trump conservatives can reclaim the spirit of the party.
“I love my country,” Alvarado, the political consultant, said of joining the team. “I feel a duty to restore a balance to our political system, and will use all my talents and energy to ensure my Republican brothers and sisters realize we can be better without Donald Trump as POTUS.”