Former East Bay Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, a moderate Republican who occasionally voted with Democrats in the Legislature before being defeated by one, thinks the Lincoln Project is misguided. While she strongly rejects most of Trump's harshest positions, she said targeting somewhat moderate Republicans like Collins is a mistake.
"I understand their argument that, gee, there's others who are enabling [Trump]," Baker said. "And I certainly do think it would have been much better to have Republicans willing to be vocal, to be a counterweight to [Trump's] worst instincts and tendencies.
"But there are candidates out there who are willing to be that counterweight, that counterbalance to the president. They need support."
Baker didn't get that support from voters in her own district, who voted her out in 2018 over a Democrat supported by organized labor. After the election, Baker said having the "R" designation after her name killed her chance of winning reelection.
Republican strategist Sean Walsh agrees, saying the goal of the Lincoln Project is "very dangerous" in that it seeks to replace one kind of purity test with another.
"And honestly, that's not in the heart and spirit of what Abraham Lincoln was about. The old Bush theory of a big tent ... there's room for everyone," Walsh said.
Walsh doubts the Lincoln Project will have much impact on the presidential election, but he admits they could complicate Republican efforts to hold onto or win back congressional seats in California.
Walsh said some races, like the one to replace convicted Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter in the 50th Congressional District in San Diego and Riverside counties "are vulnerable to moderate Republicans, particularly women. So if you stir that hornet's nest you may cost the California Republican Party some seats."
Others aren't so sure. California Republican National Convention Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon called the Lincoln Project "the coronavirus of Republican politics" — a contagion to be eradicated.
"These gentlemen — and they're all dudes — are in this sort of silo effect of hatred. This is, you know, like really irrational hatred of the president," Dhillon said. (Note: One of the group's leaders, Jennifer Horn, is a woman who once chaired the New Hampshire Republican Party.)
The San Francisco attorney, never one to soften her criticism, called the group "fringe nihilists, egotistical nihilists," adding that their work "doesn't cause me to lose even like a minute of sleep at night."