Trump's campaign thinks it's getting a surprise assist from Dean … – POLITICO
Joe Biden’s primary opponent is making the ex-president’s electability argument for him.
Former President Donald Trump during a rally on Nov. 18, 2023, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. | Bryon Houlgrave/AP
By Alex Isenstadt
Donald Trump’s campaign believes it’s getting a welcome boost from an unexpected source.
Over the past week, a super PAC closely aligned with Rep. Dean Phillips has been running a series of ads targeting President Joe Biden. Those spots, however, have also directly undercut the argument that Trump’s Republican rivals are trying to make as they scramble to slow the former president’s momentum: that Trump can’t win a general election.
The ads, being run by the pro-Phillips Pass the Torch USA super PAC in New Hampshire ahead of the state’s first-in-the nation primary, all make the point that Trump, currently, is well positioned for the general election.
One shows video footage of the Trump-inspired Jan. 6 Capitol riot on screen, with the script: “The threat is real. Donald Trump is winning.” Another says that “Twenty twenty-four is different. Trump is winning.” Still another offers a state-by-state breakdown of polls showing Trump leading Biden in a handful of battlegrounds.
Trump’s aides like it.
“Yes, Donald Trump is beating crooked Joe Biden, and we approve this message,” said Chris LaCivita, a senior Trump adviser.
The commercials present a surprising obstacle for Trump’s primary rivals. Pass the Torch USA, which was formed by longtime political operative Steve Schmidt, has spent a moderate sum to air the flight of ads. According to media-buying figures, the super PAC is set to spend $263,000 for nine days of advertising in New Hampshire that began on Nov. 26. By comparison, the main pro-Haley super PAC spent more than three times that amount in New Hampshire during the same time period. The principal pro-DeSantis group, meanwhile, is spending nothing.
Jeff Weaver, a Phillips adviser, noted that the super PAC was independent of the campaign. But he also pushed back on the idea that the commercials were inadvertently bolstering Trump. Weaver argued that the ads were simply restating an abundance of publicly available polling showing Trump leading Biden.
“Obviously, we are not involved in the creation of the ads, but let’s be clear, making an ad that reports what people already believe doesn’t help anyone — by definition, people already believe it,” Weaver said.
Spokespersons for DeSantis and Haley declined to comment. A representative for Pass the Torch USA did not respond to an inquiry.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who has emerged as one of Trump’s leading rivals, has aggressively tried to make the case that she would have better odds of beating Biden than Trump would.
“If you look at the national polls, and you look at electability, you see that Trump is pretty much even with Biden. On a good day, he might be 2 points up. In every poll, we beat Biden by 10 to 13 points,” she said during an appearance this week in the state.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has also made electability a central thrust of his campaign.
“I also think it’s something – and I know a lot of voters in Iowa have remarked to me about this – we know there’s a lot of hurdles for [Trump] to even be elected again in this country. I personally think the media and the Dems, they’ll do whatever they need to. So I don’t think he’ll likely win,” DeSantis said in a press conference last week.
Phillips could affect the race in other ways. According to polling, the congressman has been drawing support from independent voters who could otherwise support a Republican candidate, such as Haley or former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. In New Hampshire, independent voters — and voters from either party — are allowed to vote in whichever party primary they prefer.
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