WASHINGTON — One of the country’s best-funded political committees is planning to spend tens of millions of dollars in an effort to return Pennsylvania to the Democratic column in 2020.
Priorities USA, a super PAC, on Thursday will officially launch Priorities Pennsylvania, setting up staff in the Keystone State and three other critical battlegrounds: Florida, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The group raised more money than any other super PAC in the 2016 election, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, and plans to spend $100 million across the four states this year through 2020.
Its aim in Pennsylvania is to counter President Donald Trump’s message on the economy. Starting with two staffers, Priorities USA will try to promote arguments that despite the statistics Trump boasts about, the economy is mostly helping wealthy people, not the middle-class workers he promised to champion — and many of whom supported his pledge of change in 2016.
"Since coming into office, Trump has been presenting a narrative that does not pass the sniff test with voters here in Pennsylvania,” Guy Cecil, the group’s chairman, said in a statement Wednesday. “Faced with rising health-care costs, wages that aren’t keeping up with the cost of living, and layoffs, the Pennsylvania that most people are experiencing isn’t reflected in Trump’s tweets.”
Pennsylvania has hit a record low in unemployment and added more than 100,000 jobs since Trump came to office, but Cecil pointed to projected job losses from the president’s trade policies and a 30 percent increase in the cost of individual health insurance plans last year, a jump officials blamed on Trump’s efforts to undercut the Affordable Care Act by stopping payments promised to insurers.
The PAC’s strategy reinforces Pennsylvania’s critical role in the 2020 election, and its economic focus shows that issue’s importance in the debate.
Another Democratic group, American Bridge, also launched a website this week that pointed to negative economic anecdotes in Pennsylvania, such as layoffs and farmers struggling with the impact of tariffs, that it traces to Trump’s policies.
The president has also placed a huge emphasis on Pennsylvania: He held a rally in Montoursville in May. The America First Action Super PAC has prioritized Pennsylvania as one of its six top-tier states. And the president’s campaign brought a high-powered lineup to King of Prussia on Tuesday to launch a national “Women for Trump” push.
The message there emphasized economic success.
“This is a president who’s said a lot of things, but, boy, has he delivered — and he’s delivered for women,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told the crowd. “Of the six million jobs that have been created in this country, 3.1 million have been created for women.”
Priorities USA, which plowed $133 million into independent political expenditures in 2016, is aiming to counter that narrative, in part by arguing Trump has let down his working-class supporters.
Staff writer Julia Terruso contributed to this report.