Anti-Trump super-PAC’s secret weapon: John McCain

Anti-Trump super-PAC’s secret weapon: John McCain
© Greg Nash
The anti-Trump super-PAC that spent more than $2 million slamming the billionaire in Iowa is preparing to launch a new secret weapon in New Hampshire — John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain clashes with Joy Behar as the 'sacrificial Republican' on 'The View' The DNC's climate problems run deep Trump's health care focus puts GOP on edge MORE.
"Probably the only significant strategy shift is we are going to remind voters in New Hampshire about the disgraceful things that he said about John McCain," said the leader of Our Principles PAC, Katie Packer, who was Mitt Romney's deputy campaign manager in 2012.
Trump offended many Republicans when he mocked McCain's Vietnam War service last July, saying “he was a war hero because he was captured. … I like people who weren’t captured.”
Pundits predicted the remark would spell the end of Trump, but the billionaire not only overcame it, he strengthened his standing in the polls.
But Packer believes the line may come back to hurt Trump on Feb. 9. McCain has long and deep ties to New Hampshire, where he took a surprise victory in the 2000 presidential primary race against George W. Bush, and then won again in 2008.
"John McCain is very highly regarded by Republican primary voters, largely because he's considered to be a war hero," Packer said.
A McCain-focused attack ad, mail pieces and a newspaper advertisement running Sunday are being prepared by the super-PAC, Packer says.
Packer says her group had seen a surge in donor interest since spending at least $2,017,000 on TV, direct mail, digital, newspaper ads and phone calls against Trump in Iowa, where the billionaire underperformed in Monday night's caucuses.
The super-PAC has already spent at least $566,000 against Trump in New Hampshire, according to Federal Election Commission records, but Packer indicated it will amplify the Granite State attacks in the coming days and go on to spend aggressively against Trump in South Carolina.
Packer will continue her strategy of using Trump's own words, and past liberal positions, against him.
Veteran Republican strategist Charlie Black, who is unaligned in the 2016 presidential race, says he has been impressed with the super-PAC and agrees that hanging Trump with his own words is the right strategy.
"It's a real effort and it might have done some good in Iowa," Black said of the anti-Trump super-PAC. "He's not Teflon anymore now that he's a loser."
Packer refuses to say who is funding the group. She supports Marco Rubio in the Republican primaries but says she is not working for the Florida senator. She also says the work her consulting partners are doing for presidential candidates — they are variously working for Rubio, John Kasich and Chris Christie — does not benefit her financially.
Like many GOP donors and strategists, Packer sees Trump as much more vulnerable after Iowa. On Thursday morning, she tweeted out a clip from the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie “Predator” in which the action hero says, “If it bleeds, we can kill it."
"I think that that's what we showed [in Iowa]," Packer said. "He was getting a lot of great publicity because of this air of inevitability and that nothing could take him down. … [But] we started seeing his negatives go up considerably almost immediately after we went up in the air and started dropping mail."
Packer says she is far from done with Trump. She sees the third voting state of South Carolina as a place to take down the billionaire.
"We have a little bit more time in South Carolina which is nice, so we will be able to hit with more content," Packer said. "You can expect to see some more delving into his business stuff as we move into South Carolina.
"Because we have more time to put more lead on the target."