- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 3, 2019

A leading free-market advocacy group that was once skeptical of President Trump is now all-in defending him against House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, using the probe as a political weapon to target the party’s vulnerable congressional candidates and boost its picks of Republican economic conservatives.

Club for Growth, a leading free-market advocacy group in Washington, is running ads critical of the impeachment inquiry in the districts of House Democrats it perceives as vulnerable in 2020 and tracking senators’ action on the resolution condemning the impeachment inquiry.

David McIntosh, Club for Growth president and a former Indiana congressman, said his group views the impeachment inquiry as a “political liability” because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “knows the evidence doesn’t meet their charges.”

“Now that socialists have driven the Democratic Party over the cliff with the sham impeachment, conservatives have an opportunity, especially in certain districts where recently elected Democrats who campaigned on moderation and independence have to go home and answer questions from voters about why they haven’t done more in issues like jobs and the economy,” Mr. McIntosh said in a statement. “But just as important, impeachment has become a rallying cry as we’re seeing in our booming grassroots outreach including thousands of calls and letters to members of Congress.”

Honing in on an issue that does not directly involve economic policy is a noticeable shift for the group. The club did not support Mr. Trump in 2016 and typically focuses on boosting conservative candidates who promote limited government, lower taxes, and “pro-growth” economic policies.

The first wave of ads hit in October against Democratic Reps. Katie Porter of California, Lauren Underwood of Illinois, Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico, and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia.

“These days, it’s all about impeachment. All impeachment all the time,” a narrator says in the 30-second ads. “One party pushing for power by any means necessary, nullify the last election, cancel the next one.”

The group is eyeing a handful of districts to target next, including those of Democratic Reps. Harley Rouda of California, Sean Casten of Illinois, Jared Golden of Maine, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, and Ben McAdams of Utah.

The group has not shied away from going after Republicans whom it views as insufficiently supportive of Mr. Trump on impeachment.

When Sen. Mitt Romney was reported to be supportive of the impeachment inquiry, the organization immediately ran TV ads statewide in Utah and on Fox News slamming the Utah Republican. The ads ran from Oct. 17 to Oct. 27 and implored Utahns to tell Mr. Romney to “quit colluding” with Democrats.

“Slick, slippery, stealthy: Mitt Romney had us fooled,” a narrator says in the 30-second TV spot. “Posing as a Republican, he tried to infiltrate Trump’s administration as secretary of state … now his cover is blown, exposed by news reports as a Democrat secret asset.”

The group also is planning to include on its 2019 congressional scorecard the Senate resolution condemning the House impeachment inquiry introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

How candidates score on the Club for Growth’s scorecard can determine whether a candidate receives an endorsement, financial support or other assistance from the group.

The club has broken with Mr. Trump over issues involving tariffs and trade but recognizes that a wounded candidate at the top of the ticket can sink all boats down-ballot. Its moves early in the impeachment inquiry and the 2020 campaign season underscore the leverage the club believes it has in jumping on the inquiry as a political winner.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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