Who Is Steve Schmidt? Lincoln Project Co-Founder Met With Trump In 2016 For Campaign Role

He worked for John McCain in 2008.

Who Is Steve Schmidt? Lincoln Project Co-Founder Met With Trump In 2016 To Join Campaign Youtube

The 2020 campaign is in full swing, with both candidates preparing for the summer conventions and the final weeks before the election. With under 100 days left until the people cast their ballots, the Trump campaign is struggling with negative public opinion in the face of COVID-19, economic recession, and the general state of unrest in the country.

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Steve Schmidt, one of the founders of anti-Trump SuperPac The Lincoln Project is diligently working to keep the President's poll numbers as low as possible. A one-time Republican campaign operative, Schmidt left the party two years ago to get away from President Trump and his policies. Schmidt has been criticizing the White House ever since and is one of the men behind a series of viral ads that are pummeling the president and turning the tide against him.

Who is Steve Schmidt, the Lincoln Project co-founder?

Schmidt grew up in New Jersey.

Schmidt, who is 50 years old now, had a typically American early life. He was born in 1970 in New Jersey to a school teacher and telecommunications executive. He was successful throughout high school: he played football, served as Vice President of his class, was named to the National Honor Society twice, and became an Eagle Scout. He went on to college at the University of Delaware, though he left school three credits short of graduating in 1993. He eventually got his degree in 2013. He is divorced and he and his ex-wife share three children. 


Schmidt went right into politics.

After leaving school, Schmidt started running political campaigns for state races in Kentucky and California. After a few losses, he gave up on election work and went to DC to work inside government. He did communications work for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce before taking a position with the Republican National Committee. From there, he got a White House job working for Vice President Dick Cheney. That led to a job on President Bush's election campaign — a campaign he could finally say he helped win — followed by an equally successful gig getting Arnold Schwarzenegger elected as governor of Calfornia in 2006.

He ran John McCain's campaign in 2008.

In 2008, he took the job that would make him a national figure in politics: He signed on with Senator John McCain's campaign for President. The longtime Arizona lawmaker was running against relative newcomer Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Under Schmidt's guidance, McCain's campaign became bolder in an attempt to steal the momentum from Obama. Schmidt was instrumental in helping McCain make what was arguably the most consequential decision of the campaign: choosing Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. Palin, a social conservative who was a media juggernaut due to her flashy style and folksy delivery, was also considered unqualified for the role and was so polarizing that she became a drain on the campaign, which ended in defeat that November.

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Schmidt has regretted past choices.

By 2010, Schmidt was open about his change of opinion on Palin. His role in choosing — then regretting choosing her — was documented in the book Game Change by John Heileman and Mark Halperin which was later made into a movie in which Woody Harrelson played Schmidt. Ove the course of the campaign, he came to realize that she was unfit for leadership and choosing someone who would capture the imagination of the media was a mistake in a presidential campaign. He later acknowledged the long-term effects of that choice on the Republican party saying "I think that she helped usher in an era of know-nothingness and mainstreamed it in the Republican Party to the detriment of the conservative movement. And I think her nomination trivialized American politics and had a lot of results that I’m not particularly comfortable with. But it was a mistake. There’s just no two ways about it."


He left the Republican Party over Trump's leadership.

While Schmidt acknowledges his role in bringing under-qualified, outsider candidates to the mainstream, that doesn't mean he's happy about it. In 2018, two years after Donald Trump was elected, Schmidt announced that he was leaving the Republican party. In a tweet he said:

Schmidt quit the GOP in 2018.


Or did Schmidt leave the Republican party over sour grapes?

New reports say Schmidt was willing to give Trump a fair shake back when he was a candidate. In fact, he interviewed for a job working for the former Apprentice host. But he never ended up working for the campaign and now insiders say he wasn't hired because Trump thought he was a "total idiot" and "untrustworthy."

One Trump World Twoer insider says, "The president was very turned off by the fact that Schmidt had turned on McCain, his former boss, for the money,” referring to Schmidt's work on Game Change

In a long Twitter thread, Schmidt acknowledges that he did meet with Trump out of a sense of curiosity but never intended to work for him and that Trump offered him a job he didn't want. "Not in a million years would I ever work for Trump," Schmidt tweeted. "My statements and condemnations of this vile man have been consistent throughout the 2016 campaign until now. Bottom line, then and now and I say this with conviction. I’d rather be dead than disgrace myself and my children’s name by working for Trump, So help me God."

What is the Lincoln Project?

These days, Schmidt is a media commentator and founder of the anti-Trump SuperPAC the Lincoln Project. The group is behind dozens of pointedly anti-Trump ads airing on cable and spreading like virtual wildfire online. Trump himself has tweeted furious screeds about the group, whose whole purpose is to see him defeated in the 2020 election. 


Schmidt himself is unequivocal in his criticism of Trump. In a recent interview, he called Trump an idiot and an imbecile before saying, "Well, he's the President of the United States now and the man who said he would make the country great again. And he's brought death, suffering, and economic collapse on truly an epic scale. And let's be clear. This isn't happening in every country around the world. This place. Our place. Our home. Our country. The United States. We are the epicenter. We are the place where you're the most likely to die from this disease. We're the ones with the most shattered economy. And we are because of the fool that sits in the Oval Office behind the Resolute Desk."

The Lincoln Project is running multiple campaign ads. 


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Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. She is the creator of the blog FeminXer and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.