Presidential races

Club for Growth launches campaign against Trump

Club for Growth, Donald Trump, Chump, Politician
Club for Growth

Destroy The Donald. That threat has been coming for months from the Club for Growth, but on Tuesday the influential free-enterprise advocacy group finally put its money where its mouth has been.

{mosads}The group’s political arm is launching a $1 million advertising campaign in Iowa starting later this week, branding Trump “the worst kind of politician.” The two advertisements highlight Trump’s past statements that he identifies as a Democrat and that he has supported using eminent domain to take private property. Trump, one of the ads says, is “playing us for chumps.”

In a small room packed with lights and TV cameras at the National Press Club, Club for Growth President David McIntosh declared: “Donald Trump has the worst [economic] record in the entire field with the possible exception of Bernie Sanders.”

“We’ve tested the ads … we’re confident that most people in Iowa will see these messages,” McIntosh said.

He said most of the group’s 100,000-some members “are very supportive [of attacking Trump]. They see it as a logical extension of what the Club stands for.”

Tuesday’s announcement is the first significant and organized attack from a conservative group against the Republican front-runner, whom the party establishment has hoped and wished would disappear but to their dismay has continued rising in the polls.

Conservative donors have been privately debating how to deal with Trump, but a number have told The Hill they are wary about provoking his viciously effective counterattacks against their Republican candidate of choice.

Trump’s competitors’ campaigns have also been confused about how to combat him, and all have adopted different approaches.

Marco Rubio and John Kasich have largely ignored the billionaire, while at the other extreme Ted Cruz has embraced Trump, leading a rally with him last week at the Capitol to protest President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal. The best-funded Republican candidate, Jeb Bush, initially tried to ignore Trump but his campaign reversed course several weeks ago and released its first attack ad highlighting Trump’s history of liberal positions. 

Trump and the Club for Growth have been attacking each other for months.

The Club has commissioned research into Trump’s liberal-leaning policy positions, some of which he has abandoned in his run for president. McIntosh has described Trump’s record as “downright horrendous.” The conservative group takes particular exception with Trump’s support for single-payer healthcare, tax hikes on hedge fund managers and his threatening of new tariffs that would, in the Club’s view, bring on a “trade war” with China and Mexico.

Trump seems to enjoy fighting with the Club for Growth and appears to show no concern about the group’s history of defeating moderates and helping to propel the Tea Party in 2010, which saw non-establishment Republicans such as Rand Paul, Ron Johnson and Mike Lee win Senate seats.

Trump describes the Club for Growth as “that mafia organization of extortion.” His evidence for this claim is a June 2 letter McIntosh sent to Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. In the letter, McIntosh requests a $1 million contribution from Trump to the Club for Growth.

The Republican front-runner claims the group is only attacking him because he turned down their request for payment, but the Club for Growth says it was Trump who requested the initial meeting.

Asked for a response to the Club for Growth’s announcement, Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski directed The Hill to the billionaire’s Tuesday Twitter feed:

Said Lewandowski, “why would I add anything to Mr. Trump’s statement?”

Such an aggressive entry into a Republican primary race is unusual for the Club for Growth. The group tends to get more involved in House and Senate races than presidential politics — during presidential primary season it mostly publishes white papers and research on candidates’ positions — but McIntosh is so concerned about the Trump phenomenon that he believes he cannot sit on the sidelines.

McIntosh explained just how concerned he is about Trump’s candidacy in a weekend email to the Club’s 100,000-some members: “The Club believes that Donald is the worst Republican candidate on economic issues — plain and simple.”


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