Democratic super PACs plan major early spending in Michigan

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
Priorities USA has already begun spending with a six-figure digital advertising buy, with ads that accuse Trump of breaking his promise to put regular Americans’ needs ahead of special interests.

Washington — Major Democratic super political action committees are planning to spend big money early in Michigan and other Midwestern states, targeting working-class voters there who helped clinch President Donald Trump's election in 2016. 

American Bridge 21st Century PAC says it plans to invest $50 million total into an advertising effort in the battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Florida could potentially be added.

The group aims to target voters who have voted for Democrats in the past but who either stayed home or voted for Trump in 2016, arguing that the president hasn’t followed through on his promises to working people, spokesman Andrew Bates said.

"It was roughly 70,000 votes over those three states that determined the outcome in 2016. We’ve been keeping track of how Trump’s economic policies are affecting voters in those three states because we think they’re going to be the key to who is president the next four years," Bates said.

President Donald Trump

"And we think if we make a good case about how Trump has sold out working people after he promised he’d be a game changer. We think this is the most efficient place to put our efforts."

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm is helping with the operation as the PAC’s new board chair.

Trump's doubling down on "undoing" the federal Affordable Care Act this week "provides us with ammo that we can use later," Bates said, referring to the Department of Justice's move in support of striking down the law in the courts. 

"We’ll also focus on trade policy and other ways that he’s sold out working people." 

The group hasn’t yet determined how much will be spent in each state or what the ads will look like, "but Michigan will be at the heart of it," Bates said. Radio, digital and likely local television ads are planned.

Another Democratic super PAC, Priorities USA, said last week it plans to spend $100 million through early 2020 across Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in its first phase of spending.

The group said it’s already begun spending with a six-figure digital advertising buy across the states, with ads that accuse Trump of breaking his promise to put regular Americans’ needs ahead of special interests. 

One of the ads opens with a man saying Trump’s promise was “bull (expletive),” and another complaining how Trump’s trade war is “costing me.”

“Across America, people are suffering economic hardships because Donald Trump is more in touch with Mar-a-Lago millionaires than the middle-class families dealing with rising health care costs,” said Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA.

“We are going to prosecute this case against Trump from now until Election Day because voters deserve to know that while they are struggling to make ends meet, the president is making it worse.”

The planned spending is another sign that Michigan will play an important role in electing the next president.

Trump plans to rally supporters in Grand Rapids on Thursday — his sixth rally in the area — and several Democratic hopefuls have already made stops in the states, including former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

“I’m not surprised that Democratic dark money groups are going to spend big here,” said Tony Zammit, spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party.

“Democrats know they can’t win the presidency without Michigan, so they and their progressive allies are going to try to do anything they can to flip this state from red to blue. And we are going to do everything within our power to hold the state for President Trump.”