In an op-ed published in the New Hampshire Union Leader, Republican mainstay Jennifer Horn painted a damning picture of Donald Trump.
She repeatedly slammed him as unpresidential, warning he was “unable to stop himself from spouting outrageous comments” and concluding that, as a country, “We are looking for a commander in chief, someone who can be the leader of the free world, not a reality show character with an attitude.”
Her words might seem especially damaging coming from someone inside the Republican Party, but perhaps more surprising than who wrote it, is when: 2011, almost a decade ago and more than 5 years before President Trump was elected.
“I go back and re-read that op-ed sometimes and every single line, every single concern, has come to fruition,” Horn said.
“I essentially said, ‘If the Republican Party takes this guy seriously, they deserve what they get.’”
Today, Horn’s words seem almost prescient. They certainly echo those of countless Democrats and some moderate members of the GOP, as President Trump gears up for an uphill reelection effort that shows him trailing presumptive Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden by double digits in multiple polls.
Now Horn, a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party and Republican Congressional candidate, has cofounded The Lincoln Project, a PAC deadset on publicly condemning Trump’s actions. Created in December 2019, the group consists of current and former Republicans working to prevent Trump from being re-elected – something Horn never thought she’d have to do when she entered politics 12 years ago.
“It became clear there was no effort, or candidate campaign out there, that was getting any traction or would be at all effective in protecting America from a second term of Donald Trump,” Horn said.
“The day after the election, Republicans and Democrats will have plenty of philosophical and policy issues to continue to debate. But until that time comes, we have to put it aside. We have to come together. It’s imperative. We must do this for the preservation of the republic.”
At 44, Horn, who was a stay-at-home mom, had a laundry list of accomplishments. She had a thriving newspaper column, a radio talk show, and she was involved in several nonprofit efforts.
But there was one thing the wife, mother of five and grandmother wasn’t involved in: politics.
Then came 2008. Horn decided to run for congress in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District, becoming the first woman nominated by the Republican Party in the state’s 232-year history.
“I won the nomination. Barack Obama won the White House, and I won nothing,” Horn said, laughing.
But running for office in New Hampshire, where Horn spent 18 years of her life and raised her family, opened the door to politics. She never looked back.
“Everything I have ever done in politics has been motivated, I would say, by the same thing that has motivated me in almost everything I have done, and that’s being a mom,” Horn said. “I know for some people that sounds hoaky, but that’s it.”
In 2013, Horn was elected as the chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, where she served for two terms, until January 2017. She also served as co-chair of the New Hampshire Log Cabin Republicans for two years and on the Log Cabin Republican National Board of Directors. She advocated for removing anti-LGBTQ language from the New Hampshire and National GOP platforms. Her goal was always to bring leadership and a clear, principled voice to the party and to preserve and protect American ideals for her children and grandchildren’s future. She says, working in politics to her, is an “extension of parenting.”
But in the year leading up to the election of Donald Trump, everything changed.
At the time, Horn was still chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, a position that requires neutrality through by-laws, during a primary election.
“Repeatedly throughout that cycle, I was forced into this position of having to choose between defending Donald Trump or defending what I thought were the Republican principles of our party,” Horn explained.
“Every time I defended the principles of our party. I defended John McCain; I defended the women. That didn’t get me a lot of friends.”
Horn recounted a moment during the 2016 election when one of “the top guys” in Trump’s New Hampshire campaign approached her. He also happened to be a long-time friend of Horn’s, someone she admired and who helped her during her campaigns. She said he wanted to talk about the incident involving Billy Bush, who was heard on an “Access Hollywood” tape laughing with the future President, as he bragged about groping women. He called her to ensure she wouldn’t say anything publicly about the situation.
“I said, ‘Of course I am going to say something. I’ve already said something.’ He said, ‘Why? Why do you have to do that? Our teams are working together so well now, and the election is almost over. Can’t you just let it go?’”
“I think my exact words to him were, ‘I promised myself a long time ago that I would never say or do anything I can’t defend to my children. I can’t be silent now.'”
In 2019, as politicians and political leaders began planning for the 2020 U.S. presidential election, a group of current and former Republican leaders were making plans, too.
But they weren’t focusing on how to help re-elect President Trump – they were working to create an initiative to take him down from the right side of the aisle.
Reed Galen, John Weaver, Rick Wilson, Steve Schmidt, all lifelong republicans and political strategists, began talking about what they could do to ensure Trump’s defeat in 2020. Their experience within the party varied – some had worked for President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. They were all on similar paths since the 2016 presidential election, committed to speaking out against Trump.
They decided to team up and recruit other Republican leaders to assist. Horn was one of the first people they reached out to, because of her party politics and understanding of what moves Republican voters from a state that consistently has a rough and tumble primary at the presidential level.
“Jennifer has a depth and breadth of experience, and she has taken on the president publicly as a party chair in a very important state like New Hampshire,” Galen said.
“From our perspective, she is someone who has the courage to take on the president directly, when so many in the party, at this moment, have refused to do so.”
When approached, Horn immediately jumped on board and became a cofounder of The Lincoln Project; she is also the only woman in the pack.
In only a few months, The Lincoln Project has gone from new-to-the-game PAC to social media juggernaut. Since it publicly launched and joined Twitter in December, it has garnered more than 1.2 million followers, an average of 170,000 a month. The founders cite President Trump as a clear and present danger to the American Constitution and Republic, describing him as a racist and narcissist who is destructive and dangerous to the country and world. They also denounce him as a Republican and say he doesn’t understand or respect actual GOP ideals and principles.
The group’s mission statement, plastered front and center on its website, is just as unambiguous and unapologetic.
“Our many policy differences with national Democrats remain,” it reads in part. “However, the priority for all patriotic Americans must be a shared fidelity to the Constitution and a commitment to defeat those candidates who have abandoned their constitutional oaths, regardless of party.”
It concludes, “Electing Democrats who support the Constitution over Republicans who do not is a worthy effort.”
An ad from The Lincoln Project circulated less than 24 hours later mocking the president for the rally’s turnout and equating it to his dwindling popularity. Entitled “Shrinking,” the 45-second video opens with a shot of a lone Trump supporter sitting in a sea of more than 120 empty seats in the BOK Center in Tulsa. As it ends, the ad’s female narrator addresses Trump directly while intercutting shots of yawning rallygoers and Trump appearing dejected as he steps off Air Force One. “You talk a big game…and can’t deliver,” she says. “Sad, weak, low energy. Just like your presidency. Just like you.”
Two weeks later, the ad has close to 6 million views on Twitter alone.
The Lincoln Project is blanketing broadcast stations and social media with critical, oftentimes devastating ads like these, and doing so with remarkable turnaround speeds. Their digital efforts increased after COVID-19 derailed many of their plans to travel and be on the ground in states leading up to Election Day.
The close to 50 videos they’ve released undermine Trump and describe what they call his presidential failures. Horn says it’s all in an effort to convince Republicans and Independents who lean Republican to vote against President Trump in November. They measure their effectiveness in a variety of ways.
“We know we’re effective when they [the President and his team] respond to us,” she said.
“The President is tweeting at us at one in the morning.”
One such tweet from President Trump falsely accuses Horn of being “thrown out of the New Hampshire Republican Party.”
Read More: https://www.forbes.com/sites/allisonnorlian/2020/07/06/she-sounded-the-alarm-on-donald-trump-a-decade-ago-now-shes-a-co-founder-of-the-lincoln-project/#6a9e4db95557