Priorities USA unveils $100 million investment in key presidential battlegrounds
Priorities USA, the largest Democratic super PACs focused on the 2020 presidential race, is spending $100 million across four of the top swing states as part of the group's initial investment in defeating President Trump.
Guy Cecil, the group's chairman, announced the early investment in Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania during an event with reporters on Thursday. He argued that early polling shows Democrats have "opportunity to expand the electorate to the largest, if not certainly the largest in a generation" and that he wants to make sure the party wastes no time in starting that work.
"We are going to have a long, year-and-a-half long, sustained conversation with these 2, 2.5 million voters in these four states," he said.
These four states represent 75 Electoral College votes and were pivotal to Trump's 2016 victory. The $100 million will primarily be spent on digital ads and infrastructure in the states—Cecil said it is "highly unlikely that we will be on television this year."
Later this year, the group will pivot towards investing in its "Phase 2" states, which include North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada.
Cecil walked reporters through a detailed theory of the case—including how Priorities views the universe of potential Democratic persuasion and turnout targets, as well as the messages it believes is best suited to win over those voters.
He specifically called out the 16 percent of registered voters who did not vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 that say they are open to supporting a Democrat in 2020. Of those, 51 percent did not vote in 2016, 20 percent voted for Trump because they opposed Clinton, 17 percent voted for a third party candidate and 12 percent voted for Trump because they supported him.
Like other Democratic groups that have done postmortems after the 2016 race, Priorities wants to prioritize issues like health care and wages over the more general concerns Democrats have about Trump's tweets and temperament. The group's polling has found that Democrats have the biggest advantages when message on those issues, and less of an advantage when trying to message directly on Trump's tone or rhetoric.
"Our job is to refocus as much of the conversation on economic issues—not on tweets or temperament or personality, but on how this administration affects them," Cecil said.
"While people are talking about Mueller, we will be talking about high health care prices…When people are talking about Trump’s temperament, well be talking about how Trump's temperament relates to the rising cost of pharmaceuticals.”
But that work won't be done in a vacuum, as Trump's reelection and its allies have already begun spending heavily too to tar Democrats as too extreme to be trusted to run the country. And while Democrats had hoped to prioritize policy debates over rhetorical debates in 2016, Trump's siren song ultimately distracted them at times from that goal.
While the group is already starting to spend heavily, Priorities is officially neutral in the Democratic primary. But with the Democratic primary including such a wide swath of policy positions on a variety of issues, including whether Democrats should even have super PACs at all, Cecil says the group is positioning itself for whoever eventually wins the nomination.
He added that the group has "developed a more permanent infrastructure for the left that isn't focused on one election" and that it intends to fight against Trump's reelection "all the way through November" regardless of the eventual nominee's stance on super PACs. And he added that while the group has polled head-to-head matchups between Trump and possible nominees, he hasn't seen "seismic changes" in the data dependent on who the party nominates.
Read the full Priorities presentation here.