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Inside Democrats’ 2020 Plan

  • July 14, 2020

The war room’s political slogan is simple: Trump first, America last.

In ads and messaging, the group portrays Mr. Trump as undone by his own narcissism, prioritizing his political interests and ego over the expertise that is needed to battle a deadly pandemic and lead a country.

The president has responded to all three ads the group has run, calling them “totally false advertising,” perhaps thinking they came from the Biden campaign.

There are plans to run more ads and to bring on operatives who have worked on primary campaigns, including Lily Adams, a key staff member on Senator Kamala Harris’s effort, Chris Hayden, from Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, Sarah Peck, Danai Pointer and Eduardo Silva. Many of the war room staff members have been assigned to tracking Mr. Trump since 2016, amassing deep expertise in various aspects of his record and administration.

Typically, a “war room” is housed within a presidential campaign. The operations generally include plenty of public-facing political work — monitoring the media appearances of dozens of administration and campaign officials and firing off damaging quotes in news releases and on social media.

But much of the work happens just below the surface of politics. Operatives circulate information — often to reporters — that could appear in campaign ads and in debate questions, or tie up their opponent’s campaign in a hurtful media cycle.

During Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, the D.N.C. dispatched researchers to 40 states, pulled up 7,000 lawsuits involving Mr. Trump and developed a system that included 300 volunteer lawyers to review them. Ms. Watson pitched their findings to the news media.

What they found — from bankruptcies to sexual assault allegations — wasn’t enough to sway voters.

But as many Democrats mourned Mrs. Clinton’s defeat, the two operatives took their operation to the D.N.C. When Ms. Watson formally arrived at the committee on Jan. 2, 2016, she was greeted with a stack of files detailing harmful information about possible cabinet picks.

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