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For The Lincoln Project, Sen. Josh Hawley Is Now 'Front And Center'

Missouri Attorney General and senatorial candidate Josh Hawley speaks to supporters at a campaign event in Chesterfield on Oct. 29, 2018.
File photo / Carolina Hidalgo / St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Public Radio
Sen. Josh Hawley is now "public enemy No. 1" to the Lincoln Project.

In December 2019, a group of top Republican strategists formed a political action committee aimed at defeating President Donald Trump. They called it the Lincoln Project. And they proceeded to spend more than $78 million on a series of ads, many of which went viral (another, a billboard in Times Square, triggered threats of a lawsuit from Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump).

Now Trump is on his way out, and the Lincoln Project is turning its focus to “Trumpists” — and within that group, it’s labeled Sen. Josh Hawley “public enemy No. 1.”

“He was someone we had our eye on, but he’s certainly front and center now,” co-founder Reed Galen explained on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air. He said the Lincoln Project would begin running anti-Hawley ads on local airwaves tomorrow.

It dropped the first online ad last week:

Hawley has found himself the target of bipartisan enmity for forcing the Senate to hear an election challenge last week, a highly unusual step now linked forever to the riot that led to pro-Trump extremists storming the Capitol. Now several of his most prominent backers say they have serious remorse — former Sen. John Danforth called his support “the worst mistake I ever made in my life” — and one corporation's PAC is asking for its donations back.

Galen said Hawley’s actions rise to the level of sedition because he operated in bad faith in challenging Pennsylvania's results.

“Not one iota of election fraud has been verified,” Galen said, later adding, “This is a shiny intellectual who wants to prey upon what he believes to be the stupidity of average Missourians and average Americans.”

In its yearlong blitz against Trump, the Lincoln Project showed a special talent for getting inside the president’s head, triggering unforced errors. Galen said it plans to use the same tactics against Hawley, suggesting he is vulnerable because he is “incredibly sensitive.”

“People who have the level of elitism, and arrogance, that is their operating norm, believe that no one is smarter than them, and no one has the right to criticize them for anything, which is why I think you’ve seen him react so badly,” Galen said, referencing Hawley’s complaints about his canceled book deal. “We will continue to dissect Senator Hawley and understand what it is that makes him upset, and we will continue to do that until he decides it’s no longer worth the effort to continue to serve as United States senator, and make sure that he is never A, the Republican nominee for president, and B, president of the United States.”

Hawley’s office has issued a statement saying: “I will never apologize for giving voice to the millions of Missourians and Americans who have concerns about the integrity of our elections. That’s my job, and I will keep doing it.”

Galen said the Lincoln Project supports the effort to expel the lawmakers who challenged the Electoral College certifications. He noted it would take 17 Republicans to go along with the 50 Democrats in the Senate on an expulsion vote.

“I believe there are probably 17 Republicans who would love to see Hawley and Ted Cruz gone, because they are now an enormous headache to their efforts,” he said. “Do I think it’ll be an easy vote? No. But I would venture to say it’s a real possibility.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.