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The Lincoln Project and Its Effect on the Recent Election

The Lincoln Project and Its Effect on the Recent Election

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During the recent election campaign, I would occasionally see or hear an ad sponsored by The Lincoln Project. I quickly learned that The Lincoln Project was a U.S. political action committee (PAC) formed in late 2019 by a number of Republicans and former Republicans. The PAC’s goal was to prevent the re-election of President Trump and defeat all Republicans in close races running for re-election in the U.S. Senate.

One of the PAC’s co-founders, Rick Wilson, was recently interviewed in Ad Age magazine. According to Simon Dumenco, Ad Age reporter, Wilson states in his Twitter bio that he is an “ad guy.”

In addition to co-founding The Lincoln Project (TLP), Wilson has been a “high-powered, highly effective Republican political strategist” over the past few decades. The Ad Age interview revealed some of the art and science behind the political ads sponsored by TLP.

In the five swing states (Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin) where TLP spent 80-85 percent of their resources, Wilson said that they moved the crossover Republican vote between 9 and 13 percent. Their goal was not to convert Trump voters or to fire up Democratic voters. Their goal was to block the Republican voters disenchanted with President Trump from voting for a Republican ticket. They wanted “the educated, suburban, college-educated voter to see the ad with the 300-pound white guy carrying the Confederate flag in one hand and an AR-15 in the other and think ‘if I vote for Trump, I’m with him.’”

Wilson stated in the interview that most people don’t realize that there are 30 counties (my emphasis) in the U.S. suburbs that make up about 40 percent of the overall vote in every presidential election. In these counties, the TLP ran three ads titled “Mourning in America,” “Memories,” and “Countdown.” These ads emphasized the COVID-19 situation in the U.S. and blamed its acceleration squarely on the lack of leadership from President Trump.

In Pennsylvania, the typical voter is 60 years old and older. The Lincoln Project accelerated the ads in counties outside Philadelphia and Pittsburgh for the last three and a half weeks prior to Election Day.

Over my career, I’ve spent a lot of time with ad agencies and marketers listening to their proposed strategies for brand awareness campaigns, direct to consumer marketing, B2B marketing, social media marketing, content marketing, etc. My interaction with politics has been limited to voting and meeting with my local, state, and national representatives every now and then.

In the two previous presidential elections, I was intrigued by the role that social media played in electing Barack Obama and Donald Trump. The TLP initiative was less about social media and more about old-fashioned media ads and solid market research.

Nonetheless, it was very effective. Ad Age has dedicated a webpage to the election. Currently, there is another article posted about the making of The Lincoln Project’s ads as well as an update on the Georgia Senate runoff election.

The article about the Senate runoff election in Georgia is enlightening. With weeks to go before the election, spending by both sides has already reached $440 million. I think it’s fair to say that if control of the U.S. Senate was not in play, the amount of spend would likely be no more than 10-20 percent of that amount.

The lead spender is Democrat Jon Ossoff with $68 million spent on ads from Nov. 3 through Jan. 5. Democrat Raphael Warnock is running a close second with $66 million spent on ads.

Republican and Democrat PACs are spending money as well. Ad Age has a table illustrating that the total amount of money spent on the two Senate campaigns in Georgia since Jan. 1, 2019 is $621.5 million. Obviously, spending 71% of that amount after the election is ridiculous, if not unprecedented.

I’m sure that we’ll see more articles and interviews about the election between now and the inauguration of President-elect Biden. There are multiple calls for election reform from all sides. It will be interesting to see if there’s been any noticeable action for election reform prior to the 2022 mid-term and 2024 presidential election.

If history is any indicator, our elected officials will not pass any reform election between now and those two elections. The existing system appears to be working for the incumbents of both parties – and that may be one of the few items of bipartisan agreement.

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Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston continues to serve as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, and as a member of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.

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