HERE COMES THE OUTSIDE MONEY; NEARLY HALF MILLION FOR GROSS
The Lincoln Project, a partisan group that has been called a group of “grifters” dedicated to defeating Republicans, has suddenly decided to back Al Gross for Senate. Gross is running on the Democrats’ ticket against Sen. Dan Sullivan, who has served as one of Alaska’s senators for the past six years.
The group has signaled its intent to play in Alaska’s Senate race by making its initial advertising buy to start running TV ads this week on Gross’ behalf. The Lincoln Project intends to spend $482,000 for TV in Alaska in campaigning on behalf of Gross; it is not allowed to coordinate with his campaign, however.
Gross’s actual campaign has also made a TV buy, to spend more than $800,000 on television ads that will start in September. He is already running ads that refer to Gross as a “renowned orthopedic surgeon.”
This Gross ad buy signals to the national Democrat groups to let them know where he is spending his money — which is mostly in the Fairbanks TV market. And that means the Lincoln Project and other Democrat surrogate groups will take the clue, and run with their efforts in the Anchorage television market, where most of the votes are.
What it all adds up to is that National Democrat groups are here in Alaska now. They’re aiding a candidate who has gained no real ground here. But the media markets are cheap, at least, and they will have an impact down the ballot for the Senate and House races.
The group formed up originally to defeat President Donald Trump but has since branched out to defeat supporters of the president in the U.S. Senate and other Republicans they see as vulnerable.
The group has raised more than $16.8 million and has about 30 employees, according to the Washington Post.
Last week, the Lincoln Project tweeted out Gross’ name and drew tens of thousands of new national followers to Gross’ Twitter account. Presumably that will lead to fundraising for Gross, who has already raised significant funds from national Democrats through the Democrats’ online tool, ActBlue.
Senator Sullivan has a $2 million cash-in-hand advantage and runs on a strong record of success on Alaska priorities. Even Democrat-favored pollster Ivan Moore has Sullivan leading Gross by 13 points. 70 percent of respondents said they don’t know who Gross is.
In another signal to national Democrat groups, Gross loaded stock footage video of himself to YouTube, which will now be lifted by these support groups as they come to his aid. It’s a classic campaign tactic to share information with a third party, when coordination is prohibited by law.
The Lincoln Project has a reputation for being acerbic and at times petty. It likes to ridicule President Trump and get into his head.
But there’s an element of political spite: One of the cofounders of the Lincoln Project was turned down for a role in the 2016 Donald Trump campaign and seems to go where the money is.
“Steve Schmidt, a co-founders of anti-Trump political action group the Lincoln Project, met with then-candidate Donald Trump and tried to join his campaign during a 2016 Manhattan meeting,” according to the Washington Post.
“But the Republican operative — best known for his work on John McCain’s failed presidential bid before becoming one of the faces of the ‘Never Trump’ movement — failed to get the gig because Trump thought he was a ‘total idiot,’ one of the sources said.”
Alaskans recall that Schmidt was responsible for the choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for McCain’s running mate, another failed campaign move.
Last month, he took credit for a caper in which his daughter and her friends swamped the RSVPs portal for a Trump rally, and blocked actual would-be attendees from going. That, at least, was a success.
The Lincoln Project has been characterized as a group of political grifters who are skimming money to stay in lavish hotels and pay themselves handsomely, but whose main deliverables appear to be a barrage of Twitter messages.