Presidential races

Club for Growth: Anti-Trump spending proved to be ‘good call’

 Club for Growth President David McIntosh on Friday defended the conservative group’s decision to spent millions of dollars in its failed bid to defeat Donald Trump in the GOP presidential primary.
 
{mosads}“Knowing what we know today confirms the problems we saw early on with a Trump nomination,” McIntosh said during an appearance on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” that will air Sunday.
 
McIntosh, a former GOP congressman from Indiana, was referring to recent polling that shows Democrat Hillary Clinton with an enormous advantage over Trump in the electoral college. 
 
“I think it was a good call,” he added. “I think we called it right on what would happen if Trump were the nominee.”
 
This cycle marked the first time the free-market, limited-government group had waded into a GOP presidential primary. The Club waged a $7 million assault on Trump, arguing that the Manhattan business mogul and reality TV star was no fiscal or social conservative. 
 
Some of that money, McIntosh argued, helped propel the club’s preferred candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), to victory in the Iowa caucuses. But the Club and other anti-Trump forces couldn’t compete with all the free air time Trump was receiving on cable TV.
 
“What we didn’t have was about $2 billion in unearned media that Donald Trump was able to garner and generate and propel himself into the position of winning the nomination,” McIntosh said.
 
The Club for Growth now is focused on House and Senate races. McIntosh said he actually hopes Trump’s numbers improve by Election Day so he doesn’t become a huge drag on down-ballot Republicans. 
 
If Trump closes the gap, even within striking distance of Clinton, “Republican have a good chance of hanging onto the [Senate] majority by just one or two votes,” McIntosh said.
 
The Club is spending more than $1.4 million to reelect vulnerable Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), a former Club for Growth president, and another $1.4 million backing Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).
 
Many election handicappers believe that Wisconsin seat will flip to the Democrats. But an internal poll from Club for Growth Action out Friday found that the Wisconsin Senate race is within the margin of error, with Democrat Russ Feingold leading Johnson by just three points, 45 to 42 percent.
 
“Johnson is holding on,” McIntosh said, even as Clinton pulls away from Trump in the presidential race there.
 
The club also has endorsed conservative GOP Rep. John Fleming in the crowded Louisiana Senate “jungle primary,” but it’s still evaluating whether to spend big there with an independent expenditure with the election around the corner.
 
“We are looking very hard at that race to see whether there this is role for us at the super-PAC to come in with an independent expenditure,” McIntosh said. “With two weeks left to go, that would mean it would have to happen fairly soon.”
 
The interview airs Sunday on C-SPAN at both 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Eastern.
Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton John Fleming Ron Johnson Ted Cruz

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