Here is a taste:
The Project’s founders are a murderers’ row of conservative operatives. Wilson, who has worked for Rudolph Giuliani and Dick Cheney, counts hundreds of elections, from “dogcatcher to U.S. Senate,” that he and the other founders have helped Republicans win. Schmidt served in the George W. Bush White House, where he was instrumental in seating the Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts. He is widely known for having suggested Sarah Palin as a running mate for McCain, in 2008. Schmidt clearly regrets choosing someone whose crude populism presaged Trump. He was a source for “Game Change,” a book about the McCain campaign that characterized Palin as unprepared and difficult; in September, he said that Palin represented “the beginning of the politics of cowardice and fear.”
Another founder, Reed Galen, whose father worked for Newt Gingrich and Dan Quayle, oversaw with Schmidt the reëlection campaign of the California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. John Weaver, a Texan whom the Democratic strategist James Carville nicknamed Meat Cleaver Weaver, spent a decade trying to get McCain elected to the Presidency. Stuart Stevens was Mitt Romney’s chief strategist in the 2012 race against Barack Obama. A notable early Project participant was George Conway, the lawyer who antagonizes Trump on Twitter—“You. Are. Nuts.”—and whose wife, Kellyanne, was a top White House adviser until she resigned, in August. The couple, citing family demands, receded from public life, and George Conway quit the Project.
The consultant Sarah Longwell, who heads a group called Republican Voters Against Trump, said, of the leaders of the Lincoln Project, “They’ve very successfully tapped into the rage that a lot of people feel, including me.” The Project’s scorched-earth approach distinguishes it from similar organizations: the founders, some of whom have entirely shed their Republican identities, have left themselves no clear path of return. (Wilson and Schmidt are now registered Independents.) Longwell said, “In many ways, this is their last stand.”
Most of the Project’s core founders are in their fifties and came of age under Ronald Reagan. They were drawn to Reagan’s optimism and to his belief in fiscally responsible government, which, as Galen points out, “doesn’t necessarily mean lower taxes—it means being smart with taxpayers’ money.” Socially, they favor individual liberty: worship however you want, marry whomever you want. They support responsible gun ownership and a judiciously interventionist foreign policy. Weaver served in the Air Force, and Wilson worked in the Defense Department, but all the founders revere military service. In 2015, Trump disgusted them when he mocked McCain—a fighter pilot who was a P.O.W. during Vietnam—by saying, “I like people that weren’t captured.”
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