“We are now in the midst of trying times when every one must be for or against his country, and show his colors too, by his every act. Whatever may have been my political opinions before, I have one sentiment now. There are but two parties, traitors and patriots and I want hereafter to be ranked with the latter.”
COLUMBUS, Ohio — These words of a great son of Ohio, Ulysses S. Grant, in a letter to his father in the early days of the Civil War, are our guide and lodestar today. For us, they serve as inspiration as we seek to extend the battle against Trumpism to Grant’s birthplace. To ensure the defeat of President Donald Trump and Trumpism, we’re pleased to announce that our two organizations, the Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump, have joined together to launch Operation Grant. We begin this week with a paid advertising campaign and a grassroots guerrilla campaign that will help deliver Ohio’s 18 electoral votes to former Vice President Joe Biden this November.
The politics of this decision are simple. For President Trump, there is a narrowing electoral map that gives him few paths to re-election. None of those paths exist without Ohio. And so Operation Grant aims to use the great American general’s home turf to put the nail in the coffin of today’s Neo-Confederate president.
Donald Trump won Ohio by eight points in 2016, causing some to leave it off the electoral map of contested states. But during the spring and summer of America’s discontent, with an incompetent and scared commander-in-chief unwilling and unable to unite a fractured country and handle a genuine national crisis, it has become clear that writing off the Buckeye State was premature.
As it stands today, the president’s status in Ohio is shaky and the ranks of patriots there are swelling.
If Donald Trump wants to win the state again, he will have to fight for it.
We aim to make certain of that.
Because, given the terrible political environment for the president, why would we concede the great state of Ohio to Trump? The suburbs of Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati provide fruitful ground for the types of regretful Trump voters who in 2018 powered Nancy Pelosi to the speakership. The industrial part of the state has seen Trump’s promises to the “forgotten man” go unfulfilled, as he proved incompetent in the face of our economic collapse, caring more about sending mean tweets from his cable TV bunker than addressing the crisis that is hollowing out our economy.
A Fox News poll bears that out, showing Donald Trump trailing Joe Biden by two points in the state, and Quinnipiac has the former vice president leading by one. In the 2018 midterms, Sen. Sherrod Brown — a blue-collar candidate with a similar base as Joe Biden — won the state handily against a credible challenger for whom President Trump unsuccessfully campaigned.
So the path to victory is there. And so we take our cue from one of Gen. Grant’s early important successes during the Civil War — the Battle of Fort Donelson in early 1862. During the battle, Gen. Grant said that, “no terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted.”
With all due respect, we offer the same terms to President Trump today.
We’ll see you in Ohio, Mr. President. A place where all things are possible.
John Weaver is a co-founder of The Lincoln Project and political consultant who served as a political strategist for George H.W. Bush in 1988 and 1992 and oversaw Sen. John McCain’s political operations from 1997 to 2007. Weaver also served as chief strategist for Republican John Kasich’s campaign race in 2016. Bill Kristol is founding director of Republican Voters Against Trump and editor-at-large of The Bulwark. Kristol served as chief of staff to Education Secretary William Bennett in the Reagan administration and as chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle in the George H.W. Bush administration. This op-ed was written for The Plain Dealer and cleveland.com.