DAVID GREENE, HOST:
In a presidential election, a candidate is not just running against an opponent. He or she is also running against well-funded opposition groups trying desperately to define the candidate they want to take down. And progressive groups opposing Donald Trump are primed to start filling the screens of TVs, computers and smartphones with hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of anti-Trump messages. Here's NPR's Peter Overby.
PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: If you pay attention to political TV ads, there's one you might remember from 2012.
(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD, "STAGE")
MIKE EARNEST: We all just lost their jobs. We don't have an income.
OVERBY: The Democratic super PAC Priorities USA Action aired a worker's bitter recollection of getting laid off when Mitt Romney's investment firm took over the company where he worked.
(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD, "STAGE")
EARNEST: Mitt Romney made over a $100 million by shutting down our plant and devastated our lives.
OVERBY: The ad helped to define Romney before the general election campaign really got going. Priorities USA Action isn't going to do a Trump version of this ad, but co-chair Guy Cecil said they do want to shape how voters think about the billionaire.
GUY CECIL: Our focus is really going to be on Donald Trump himself.
OVERBY: One line of attack...
CECIL: Is talking about his record of building his own fortune on the backs of people and essentially on the fraudulent claims that he has made about his business record and about how he has treated the people around him.
OVERBY: Also on the target list, Trump's record on military and international issues and what Cecil called his divisiveness and carnival barking. Voters will get the messages on TV and online, essentially from this month to Election Day. Cecil said it will cost $125 million dollars, about twice what Priorities spent in 2012. Just as significantly, Priorities has been coordinating with other super PACs.
CECIL: It's really critical that we work really closely with other progressive organizations. And it's something that, for the last 11 months, I've put a priority on.
OVERBY: Eleven months - back to before Trump was even a candidate. Priorities and other groups are exchanging poll data and research and field-testing messages. This kind of coordination is legal because it doesn't involve the candidates or parties. So here's a boppy little 15-second ad that was tested this winter. Two 20-somethings, a woman and a man, at side-by-side computers.
(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD, "GIVE ‘EM HILL")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: When you find out that bro who has your same job gets paid more than you...
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You give them Hill.
OVERBY: One partner on the ad was the super PAC arm of EMILY's List, which supports liberal female candidates. EMILY's List is working to turn out young women who otherwise might not vote. Denise Feriozzi is the group's deputy director.
DENISE FERIOZZI: If we do our jobs right and educate them on the stakes of the election, millennial woman could make up 20 percent of the overall voters in November.
OVERBY: Priorities USA also works with Planned Parenthood's nonprofit Action Fund. The fund's director Deirdre Schifeling said they aim to reach 3 million to 5 million voters.
DEIRDRE SCHIFELING: We will spend as much money as we can raise. We feel like everything is at stake this year.
OVERBY: Altogether, Planned Parenthood, EMILY's List and Priorities are out to spend maybe $175 million, which isn't so much in a presidential campaign. Again, Guy Cecil.
CECIL: We are preparing for, you know, upwards of $1 billion of spending against Hillary Clinton in the targeted presidential states.
OVERBY: States where the reputations of both Trump and Clinton will be trashed over the coming months. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.