Democratic groups set to spend millions pressuring Senate Republicans on impeachment
Posted January 8, 2020 5:09 p.m. EST
CNN — Democratic groups are preparing to spend millions on impeachment-focused messaging to ratchet up the pressure on Republican senators facing tough reelection bids in 2020.
The campaigns aim to push vulnerable Republicans into backing an impeachment trial that would include witnesses in the coming weeks, as well as pressuring senators to vote to remove President Donald Trump from office. Some of the persuasion is also targeting moderate Democrats who party officials worry could side with Republicans on impeaching the president. The Daily Beast reported on some of the campaigns' efforts last month.
Digital billboards will roll through cities in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, North Carolina and Utah this week, focused on each home state senator's role in the impeachment trial.
Meanwhile, people going online in Maine, Iowa, Arizona and a host of other states will see ads urging them to push their Republican senators to vote to remove Trump from office.
And an organization founded expressly to push for Trump's ouster has spent millions in ads in key states for the last two months -- and said Wednesday they are prepared to spend more than $1 million in ads once the Senate trials begins.
The collective efforts by these organizations are meant to push Senate Republicans to back a trial where witnesses are called -- what the groups are calling a fair trial. They are also warning moderate Senate Democrats who may be inclined to keep Trump in office that doing so would draw the ire of the Democratic base.
The efforts will be a heavy lift. Trump has a hold on Senate Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he plans to synchronize all of his actions with the White House. Additionally, while some vulnerable Republicans have signaled that they are in favor of hearing from witnesses, that has largely been the extent of their interest and none have indicated that they are prepared to remove Trump from office.
The Democratic group's hope: The political realities of being a Republican up for reelection in a state like Maine, Arizona or Colorado will make it hard to dismiss impeachment quickly and could lead to a more in-depth trial.
"This campaign - coordinated alongside our coalition partners and grassroots activists from across the country - will help mobilize hundreds of thousands of Americans to take action and ensure that senators feel an enormous amount of pressure to stand up for our democracy and remove the criminal in the White House," said Sean Eldridge, the president of Stand Up America, the group that launched $300,000 work of digital ads against Republicans.
The ads target a host of Republicans, but also focuses on those senators who are up for reelection this year, like Sen. Susan Collins in Maine, Sen. Joni Ernst in Iowa, Sen. Cory Gardner in Colorado, Sen. Martha McSally in Arizona and Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina.
The ads also target three moderate Democrats -- Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona -- who appear to be the most likely Democrats who could side with Republicans on impeachment.
"The Senate fight started the moment Donald Trump was impeached" in the House, Eldridge said.
A trio of liberal organizations -- MoveOn, Daily Kos and Need to Impeach -- also launched a digital ad campaign on Wednesday, running ads that tie vulnerable Republicans to Trump and proclaim, "America Demands A Fair Trial!"
The ads predictably target Collins, Ernst, Gardner, McSally and Tillis, but also go after Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, McConnell and Mitt Romney of Utah.
In addition to these ads, though, the groups will deploy digital billboards to roam key cities in each senator's home state.
"Trump broke the law," the billboards read. "Senator Romney, don't help him cover it up. Vote to convict and remove."
David Sievers, MoveOn's campaign director, said the ads are aimed at highlighting how a "strong majority of Americans wants the Senate to remove Trump from office for the crimes and abuses of power for which he was impeached."
"The time has come for the Senate to finally hold Trump accountable for his crimes against our nation," said Carolyn Fiddler, communications director for Daily Kos. "They have the power and responsibility to uphold the sanctity of our democracy."
The group that has worked the longest on impeachment -- the Tom Steyer-founded Need to Impeach -- plans to continue its efforts now that the House has actually impeached Trump.
The group said it has spent roughly $3.5 million on television and digital ads in Arizona, Maine, Colorado and Iowa -- all states with competitive Senate races in 2020 -- and Kentucky -- home to the Senate majority leader -- since October 1, shortly after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry. The group also aired a national TV ad the week of the vote in the House, urging members to "do their constitutional duty."
A spokesman for Need to Impeach said it plans to grow its ad buy to more than $1 million in the coming weeks as the Senate trial begins.
"Right now, we must fight for a fair trial in the Senate and put pressure on Senators such as Susan Collins, Martha McSally, and Cory Gardner to uphold their constitutional responsibility," said Nathaly Arriola, executive director of Need to Impeach. "Need to Impeach and our supporters have pressured Senate Republicans in their home states since the launch of the impeachment inquiry in early October and will continue to do so. Ultimately, if Senate Republicans forgo a fair trial and vote to acquit, they will be abandoning their oath of office and be complicit in covering up Donald Trump's crimes."