Home U.S. News Republican Attack Ads in Iowa Show Conservative Voters Who Turned on Trump

Republican Attack Ads in Iowa Show Conservative Voters Who Turned on Trump

Republican Attack Ads in Iowa Show Conservative Voters Who Turned on Trump

A Republican group that opposes Donald J. Trump is unveiling an advertising campaign featuring voters who supported him in the past two presidential elections but have now turned against him, in an effort to put questions of electability at the center of the G.O.P. primary race.

The group, the Republican Accountability Project, is spending $1.5 million on ads in Iowa to try to persuade likely Trump voters that the former president would struggle to win the 2024 general election. The organization’s goal is to help lift another contender to the Republican nomination — anyone but Mr. Trump.

The ads feature first-person testimonials from Iowans explaining that they like Mr. Trump but fear he could fail to win back the White House for Republicans by being unable to appeal to swing voters.

In one spot, Fran, a two-time Trump supporter, says she “really appreciated” his presidency. But she adds that she will not support him again in the primary.

“Donald Trump has way too much political baggage,” she says. “The next Republican candidate has to be somebody who can convince swing voters, independents, to vote for them. Because Donald Trump can’t.”

The campaign will be shown on broadcast, cable and digital ads in Iowa’s two biggest media markets through the summer. Polling shows Mr. Trump with a commanding lead in the state, and his closest rival — Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida — has struggled in recent days to reset his campaign, as he trails the front-runner by double digits.

The tactic of using testimonials from former Trump supporters has been tried before — both by the Republican Accountability Project and Democratic groups in 2020 — to undercut Mr. Trump with independent and moderate voters. But it has never been aimed at persuading strong Trump supporters to move away from him.

The ads are the next evolution for the Republican Accountability Project, which sees Mr. Trump as posing serious threats to democracy and has spent years trying to push him out of political life. Its effort has been funded by donors from both sides of the aisle.

Sarah Longwell, the group’s executive director, said the question of electability was Mr. Trump’s biggest weakness.

A portion of the Republican Party — perhaps 30 percent — supports the former president but worries he could not win the White House, Ms. Longwell said. The Iowa ad campaign is meant to send a message not only to those primary voters but also to the Republican challengers in the field, who Ms. Longwell thinks should focus more on Mr. Trump’s political vulnerabilities.

“Part of the problem has been that there hasn’t been another candidate to emerge who voters intuitively see as more electable,” Ms. Longwell said. “The No. 1 reason Trump is dominating right now is because of lack of political talent from the people who are challenging him.”

Iowa is already emerging as a crucial battleground in the primary race. A decisive January victory by Mr. Trump in the state, which has retained its place as the starting gate of the Republican nominating fight, would propel him into the next primary contests with momentum that could be difficult to stop.

“We believe strategically there’s basically only one path for somebody to unseat Trump’s dominant hold,” Ms. Longwell said. “Beat him in Iowa and you change the contours of the race quickly.”

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