Sarah Longwell, political strategist, founder of Republican Voters Against Trump (RVAT), and publisher of the right-leaning opinion and news website, The Bulwark, spoke to Susan del Percio about her focus groups, her priorities, and the Never-Trump movement. Sitting at tables with conservative intellectual heavyweights and discussing the cancerous effect of Trump got old for Sarah and inspired her to say to the group, which included Bill Kristol and Charlie Sikes, “let’s do something.”
Sarah concedes that she originally and naively thought the establishment Republicans would serve as a guardrail against Donald Trump and that there would be a more formidable primary challenger to him; today, however, it’s clear that neither were true.
Sarah harkened back to her days in communications to devise focus groups around the country with the intent of getting into the minds of “reluctant Trump voters” – what drove them to Trump and what would persuade them to leave him in 2020?
- Focus group participants readily admitted Trump’s erratic behavior and questionable character were problematic.
- “Women, who voted for him and then went home and cried, were persuadable.”
Republican Voters Against Trump (RVAT)
Recognizing that personal stories move people, RVAT’s goal was to compile intimate testimonials from people who had voted for Trump in 20126, but were not going to in 2020. Sarah admits that it was hard at first, taking 4 months to get the first 100 videos, but after the launch, people saw they weren’t alone and videos poured in.
“There’s not enough tax cuts and conservative judges in the world to justify Donald Trump,” Sarah Longwell
Trump won 3 states by 77k votes in 2016, so Sarah’s goal remained hyper-focused and grounded in reality – eliminate 3% of Trump’s support among Republicans. In order for Republicans to get the message, however, Biden needs a landslide victory. And that message, according to Sarah, is that Republicans should be electorally punished for their faustian bargain with Trump, someone who is actively subverting our Democracy.
“I believe in liberal democracy more than I do marginal tax rates,” Sarah Longwell
Sarah predicts that Independents will break against Trump, because he now has a record to run on and it’s a bad one. Covid-19 has real consequences, and it will be harder to generate excitement to shake things up again – “I feel already pretty shaken right now! (we all do)”
When asked why she doesn’t just become a Democrat, Sarah reminds us that she is still a conservative – a strong American presence in the world, free markets and limited government. Moreover, Democrats are experiencing something similar to Republicans right now, but they’ve done a better job of suppressing it’s populist, far left contingent.
“Polls are not gospel,” Sarah Longwell
Biden has to play to win, which means Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and NOT Texas, which is expensive and unlikely. If he’s going to stretch anywhere, have it be Georgia.
Sarah is mostly staying out of the Senate races, noting that it has been hard to watch so many moderate republicans get run out of the party.
What happens to the GOP after Trump loses?
It depends on the margin of his loss. There’s an opportunity to have a fight for the soul of the party, but unless Trump goes to prison, he’s not going anywhere. The party is doomed if he becomes a kingmaker, which is likely at this point.
What’s possible if Republicans hold the Senate?
- Rule of Law reforms
- Anti-corruption legislation
- Modest movement on Healthcare
- Narrow senate majority is a foil for Biden. Excuse for Biden to go far too left, where he is comfortable.
What is Trump’s argument that he can run on against Biden?
- Trump wanted to run on the economy, but can’t now, so he’s trying cultural wedge issues. However, talking about monuments when Americans can’t send their children to school or afford groceries isn’t a winning strategy.
“It’s not as fun to own the libs when you can’t own a house or a car because of a wrecked economy, “ Sarah Longwell
Sarah Longwell has served as a defining member of the Voters Against Trump movement and gained national attention as a Republican strategist and active voice in Republican politics. She is the head of the Republicans for the Rule of Law, part of Defending Democracy Together, which has and does advocate against Trump. She also served as the first female member of the board for the Log Cabin Republicans and would go on to serve as chairwoman of the board.
Sarah Longwell has been involved in national politics for several decades. After moving to DC she worked and eventually became the Vice President and Communications Director of Berman and Company. She later went on to create her own successful communications firm, Longwell and Associates.
Susan Del Percio is a New York-based Republican strategist and founder of Susan Del Percio Strategies, she has advised dozens of candidates in New York and elsewhere on successfully communicating messages to an electorate. Ms. Del Percio has served as a media spokeswoman on many campaigns, both political and corporate, and frequently appears on many local and national news outlets as a political analyst. Susan is also an MSNBC contributor. She served in the Giuliani Administration and holds a Masters degree in political communications.
With nearly 30 years of experience in the political, government, nonprofit and private sector arenas, she is a trusted advisor helping leaders develop and execute focused strategic communications and winning crisis management campaigns. Her unique insights on government procedure, regulatory environments and public policy is highly sought after, especially now, with public affairs, policy and media so thoroughly intertwined.
Appointed as a Special Advisor to Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014, she initiated and implemented communication strategies, and advised and developed policy initiatives. Susan also served as Deputy Commissioner in the Giuliani Administration (1995-2001) prior to founding her firm in 2001. Her client list includes large and mid-size private corporations, Fortune 50 executives, leading elected officials, political organizations and candidates as well as non-profits.