A super PAC supporting President Donald Trump began airing ads in South Jersey last week boosting U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew immediately after the congressman formally switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican.
POLITICO first reported Friday in New Jersey Playbook that The Committee to Defend the President, a super PAC run by a former Colorado state senator, had purchased $208,400 in television air time and $50,000 in online ads on Dec. 19 — the same day Van Drew made his party switch official and pledged his “undying support” to Trump.
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The 30-second ad began airing Dec. 21, the super PAC announced on Twitter. It praises Van Drew for “standing by President Trump rather than participating in a sham impeachment.”
“It takes guts to stand up for what’s right, even when the mob rises against you,“ the ad says.
The ad comes as Van Drew, who is likely to run for reelection in 2020 as a Republican in New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District, faces three GOP candidates who were in the race when Van Drew was a Democrat.
Brigid Callahan Harrison, a political science professor at Montclair State University who is already seeking the Democratic nomination, alleged Van Drew “named his price” while switching parties and that the ad buy will effectively go against “rank and file loyal Republicans who were seeking their party’s nomination in order to oppose Van Drew well before he named his price.”
In a tweet, the super PAC said Harrison was “spewing lies” by accusing Van Drew of having a “price.”
Van Drew left the Democratic Party as internal polls showed his support plummeting among registered Democrats in the 2nd District, and as Democratic Party leaders who immediately embraced his candidacy in 2018 were abandoning him.
Some local Democratic leaders in the district blamed Van Drew’s opposition to impeaching Trump for contributing to losses in New Jersey’s 1st Legislative District, where three Democratic incumbents were running as “Team Van Drew.”
The Committee to Defend the President was founded in 2013 as the “Stop Hillary PAC.” It’s run by former Colorado state legislator Ted Harvey and political consultant Guy Short, according to reports.
The committee first garnered major media attention in 2017, when it aired an ad that asked voters to call a number to “pledge your support” to defend Trump. In October, the Washington Post reported that the super PACs ran an ad on Facebook that told users their voter registrations were incomplete and then took them to a page that harvested their data.