Democrats go all in against Project 2025 with billboard campaign to link Trump to controversial plan

Democrats are pressing ahead in an uncertain political moment and seizing what they see as an opportunity: Donald Trump’s attempt to distance himself from a blueprint for a narrowing of the federal government that would eliminate major agencies like the Department of Education.

With president Joe Biden vowing to stay in the race amid calls from his own party to quit and the Republican nominating convention on the calendar next week, Democrats are sharpening a line of attack against a policy agenda laid out by conservative groups and personalities including many with direct ties to Trump’s first term in the White House.

The so-called Project 2025 is a collaborative effort with input from over 100 conservative organizations led by the Heritage Foundation. Also involved are Turning Point USA, which has a presence on college campuses, and groups known for staking out rightwing stances on culture war issues including Moms for Liberty. The goal is to provide a workable plan for implementing radical changes to the federal government which a conservative president like Trump would have ready to go upon taking office next January.

On Thursday the DNC launched its first mobile billboard effort centered on Project 2025 — a truck that will broadcast a series of messages about the campaign in front of the Heritage Foundation’s headquarters near Capitol Hill. The intent of the messages is clear: Project 2025 is Trump’s agenda despite his attempt to claim the opposite.

Trump did just that in a Truth Social post a week ago in which he stuck to vague language and applauded the group for having some good ideas and condemned them for other bad ones — none of which he actually named.

“I know nothing about Project 2025,” he wrote in the post on Friday.

“I have no idea who is behind it. I disagree with some of the things they’re saying and some of the things they’re saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal. Anything they do, I wish them luck, but I have nothing to do with them.”

In reality, the former president is personally connected to central figures involved in the effort. Heritage is the lead sponsor for next week’s Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, where delegates are set to vote in a trimmed-down party platform handcrafted by the Trump campaign before nominating the man himself to be their nominee for a third time. On that platform: an endorsement of state efforts to restrict abortion and a call for what it describes as “the largest deportation operation in American history”.

One of the most obvious examples of Trump’s very personal connection to the project is Johnny McEntee, one of a number of young conservatives who saw the former president’s first term for the career opportunity it was and turned a gig as Mr Trump’s bag man into a job running the White House Presidential Personnel Office.

McEntee, now an influencer on TikTok who retains close ties in Trumpworld, joined Project 2025 as a senior adviser in May.

Johnny McEntee (Reuters)
Johnny McEntee (Reuters)

Trump’s political enemies clearly see his sudden hesitance to embrace the plan being developed as a sign that messaging on this issue will be effective, particularly at a time when his opponent’s campaign is facing its most serious polling inflection point of the entire race so far.

The Biden campaign is working to convince despondent Democrats of the stakes of the election as he faces calls for his withdrawal and either an open convention process or the coronation, for lack of a better word, of vice president Kamala Harris as the new standard-bearer of the party going into November.

Biden himself wrote in a letter to congressional Democrats this week that he would not exit the race under any circumstances and blasted those in the party who have called for a new nominee as elites and out of touch.

Some of those Democrats, led by California’s Jared Huffman, are separately organizing efforts to campaign against Project 2025.

And given the scope of the project, it’s not hard to see how the plan could unnerve the growing contingent of American voters who are seeking stability after a tumultuous eight years of Mr Trump’s two, soon to be three, campaigns for the White House and the associated chaos that has enveloped US politics in his wake.

The project is massive in scope. Among other things, it lays out a roadmap to eliminate some agencies like NOAA, which tracks hurricanes and other weather patterns while radically reshaping others. Of particular importance is the Department of Justice, which the conservative groups behind Project 2025 want to alter by eroding the policies and practices that keep it independent and separate from the rest of the executive branch, especially the president.

Donald Trump arrives at a campaign rally at his golf resort in Miami, Florida, in July 2024 (Reuters)
Donald Trump arrives at a campaign rally at his golf resort in Miami, Florida, in July 2024 (Reuters)

"Donald Trump and his Republican buddies are trying their best to hide their plans if he is elected into office because they know their proposals are vastly unpopular with the majority of the voters. They know that when Americans hear about Project 2025, they do not support it,” Emilia Rowland, DNC’s national press secretary, told The Independent.

“Democrats, led by president Joe Biden and vice president Kamala Harris, on the other hand, have a record of delivering. President Biden’s record on protecting abortion, creating good-paying jobs, and lowering costs on prescription drugs and health care is undeniable and the most successful first-term president in a generation. President Biden is working everyday to defend our democracy and stop Project 2025, and we'll win that battle when he's re-elected in November."