Pro-Trump group plans to spend $250M in six battleground states

An outside group supporting President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE intends to spend $250 million in six battleground states as part of a major effort to boost his chances of being reelected in 2020, according to officials with knowledge of the plans.

America First Action super PAC is preparing to pour resources into states with expensive media markets and high numbers of electoral votes. By doing so, it hopes to clear space for Trump’s reelection campaign to spend its money in other key states with cheaper markets.

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The states identified by America First are Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina and Georgia, none of which has fewer than 15 electoral votes. The group’s leaders believe a Trump victory is virtually guaranteed in 2020 if he wins all six.

“We’re going to alleviate the burden on these six states that are must wins. They are the quickest path to the Electoral College,” Kelly Sadler, communications director for America First Action, told The Hill.

America First will focus this year on voter registration and collecting data that can be used to target messages for narrowly tailored demographic groups it believes will propel Trump to victory. 

For example, Trump’s political team believes it must identify about 972,000 additional voters in Florida to win based on its projection that a record 10.5 million people will cast ballots there in 2020. His advisers believe it has 4.3 million Sunshine State voters ready to turn out for Trump, short of the roughly 5.25 million it will need.  

It also plans to run advertisements that tout Trump’s achievements and, once the Democratic primary field shakes out, attack specific candidates.

The ambitious plans, if they reach fruition, would mark a significant rise for a group that faced criticism from some Republicans and Trump allies who said its efforts were lacking during the 2018 midterms.

America First Action says it plans to raise $300 million to fund its 2020 efforts, a figure first reported by Politico.

During the 2018 cycle, it raised around $39 million and spent roughly $36.5 million, according to Federal Election Commission data. Those figures fell short of the $100 million it reportedly sought to spend during the 2018 cycle.

America First, which can solicit unlimited contributions, has not reported fundraising totals for this year and is not obligated to do so until July.

The announcements follow last month’s hiring of Linda McMahonLinda Marie McMahonTrump campaign describes Corey Stewart super PAC as 'unconscionable' Pro-Trump group plans to spend 0M in six battleground states XFL signs TV deals with ESPN, Fox, ABC for 2020 launch MORE, the former Trump small business administrator and WWE executive, to lead the group, as chairwoman. McMahon has ties to deep-pocketed GOP donors, some of whom declined to contribute to Trump’s 2016 campaign.

The group also received a boost this week when the Trump campaign named it as one of its “official fundraising organizations” and the only “approved outside non-campaign group,” an effort to set it apart amid accusations of impropriety by another pro-Trump group run by former campaign aide David Bossie.  

That statement drew complaints from ethics watchdog groups who say it amounted to an inappropriate solicitation of funds for a super PAC by a formal candidate committee.

Officials at America First are eyeing another group of smaller states as possible targets for investment, including Wisconsin, Arizona, Iowa, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Maine. The most electoral votes any of those states carry is 10.

Texas, Colorado and Virginia are also on its “watch list.”

One thing the group says it will not do in the near future is spend money targeting specific Democratic candidates.

Officials believe it is too early to pick which 2020 candidate might pose a threat to Trump and are content to let the president go after candidates on his own at rallies. One official said the group will have a clearer sense of the field by the end of the year, and once it comes into focus, “then it is going to be full bore.”

The group is also planning to hold events to tout the president’s revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement and eventually target holdout lawmakers in the House if and when it comes up for consideration.

Immigration and the administration’s effort to address the opioid crisis are other issues that are expected to figure heavily into its messaging to prospective Trump voters.

-- Updated at 5:04 p.m.