Pro-Trump group’s health care offensive warns GOP senators to get in line – Politico
A new campaign by top White House allies targeting the GOP’s most vulnerable senator over health care sends a loud message to those resistant to the Trump agenda: We’re coming after you.
America First Policies, a White House-backed outside group led by the president’s top campaign advisers, has launched a $1 million attack against Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who on Friday announced that he opposed the Senate’s recently unveiled Obamacare repeal plan.
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That included a Twitter and digital ad campaign targeting the senator, including a video that accuses him of “standing with” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a reviled figure in conservative circles.
“Unacceptable,” the video says. “If you’re opposed to this bill, we’re opposed to you.”
America First Policies is set to expand its campaign early this week with TV ads that will go after the Nevada senator.
The offensive is aimed at both punishing Heller and at swaying his vote, and it is a stunning act of political retaliation against a member of the president’s own party — one who faces a perilous path to re-election in 2018. Senior Republicans, many of whom are deeply worried about Heller’s political standing and increasingly nervous about the midterms, were shocked and spent the weekend measuring the possible fallout.
Those close to the White House say the attack is an outgrowth of President Donald Trump’s mounting frustration over his stymied legislative agenda and anger at Capitol Hill Republicans who he sees as unhelpful.
In a Saturday tweet, Trump hinted at his displeasure after multiple senators expressed concerns with the bill: “I cannot imagine that these very fine Republican Senators would allow the American people to suffer a broken ObamaCare any longer!”
By targeting Heller, America First Policies is telegraphing to recalcitrant Republican lawmakers — even those trying to navigate treacherous political waters at home — that they will be punished if they don’t go along with the Trump agenda. Other Republicans could soon face similar attacks.
Brian Walsh, president of America First Policies, said after Heller’s Friday press conference, the group’s senior leadership — including former Republican National Committee chief of staff Katie Walsh, Trump fundraiser Tommy Hicks, and Nick Ayers, a longtime top strategist for Vice President Mike Pence — determined that “it was time to make a strong statement.”
“For the greater part of a decade the GOP has promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, taken dozens of votes to do so, now, with the ability to keep that promise on the horizon, legislators are wavering,” Walsh said. “Sen. Heller’s decision to walk away is unacceptable and sends the wrong message to the rest of the senators who are still working to get to ‘yes.’”
Within 90 minutes of Heller’s announcement, the group had mobilized. Determined not to let the news fade on a summer Friday afternoon, Brad Parscale, the digital director on Trump’s presidential campaign who now works with America First Policies, directed an anti-Heller Twitter offensive aimed at ginning up anger among Trump supporters. Spending just over $100,000, the organization encouraged people to tweet at Heller and his staffers, created algorithms that tied Heller with Pelosi, and promoted a “HellerVotesYes” hashtag.