- The Washington Times - Monday, June 10, 2019

Ben LaBolt, a former spokesman for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, on Monday said outside Democratic groups should start advertising in battleground states now or risk the prospect of President Trump’s honing a general election message early on in his own re-election campaign.

Mr. LaBolt said on CNN’s “New Day” that the Trump campaign is already focusing on the “long game” and messaging that can win him a general election, saying the Obama campaign tried the same tactics in 2011 when analyses were casting doubt on the former president’s re-election prospects.

“I believe that the DNC and allied organizations need to start advertising in battleground states now to make sure that Donald Trump doesn’t set the terms for the general election before we’ve even selected a nominee,” he said, saying the candidates in the crowded Democratic field are necessarily focused on their own campaigns for the party’s nomination right now.

He mentioned states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Florida.

“We need to reach persuadable voters today, and that’s what the Trump campaign is doing and Democrats have been silent in front of those voters,” he said.

Mr. LaBolt also said certain commitments from candidates, like pledges not to participate in high-dollar fundraisers, could ultimately constrain them in a general election. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernard Sanders are two candidates who have decried big-money fundraisers.

He said the best way to enact campaign finance reform is to elect a Democratic president who’s committed to the issue.

“But if the Trump campaign entertained entreaties from the Russians and Wikileaks the last time around, Lord knows what they’ll do to win re-election this time around,” he said. “And I get concerned when we make commitments that will constrain our ability to win and fight on an uneven playing field in the general election.”

In a new piece for The Atlantic, Mr. LaBolt said Mr. Trump is outspending Democrats six-to-one on video ads, for example.

“While Trump’s soft poll numbers may suggest otherwise, the general-election battle won’t be easy, in large part because he’s getting a head start,” he wrote. “It’s not time for Democrats to despair; it’s time for us to engage.”

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