Conservatives are hoping to salvage Donald Trump’s flailing reelection campaign by exploiting transgender children to ignite his conservative base.

Next week, the American Principles Project is running a series of attack ads in the key swing state of Michigan lambasting Trump’s Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, for allegedly supporting “gender change treatments for minors.” In one of the commercials set to air in local markets, conversion therapy advocate Kevin Whitt claims that trans youth “need time” to become stable in their identities before they undergo procedures he claims are “dangerous and irreversible.”

“As a young teen, I felt I should be a woman,” Whitt says. “Seventeen years later, I felt I should be a man again.”

The advertisements are the brainchild of APP Executive Director Terry Schilling, who told Politico in a recent interview that affirming treatments for transgender minors is a “powerful issue that the Republican Party can use to its success.”

Last year, the conservative think tank beta-tested using trans issues as a wedge issue in Kentucky’s gubernatorial campaign. Although Democratic candidate Andy Beshear ultimately defeated unpopular Republican incumbent Matt Bevin in that race, Schilling said APP “delivered nearly 13,000 new votes for Bevin” by attacking Beshear’s support for trans-affirming nondiscrimination policies.

“What we found was the sports issue got the most powerful response from people, specifically conservative Democrats and independents,” he said, noting that Bevin ultimately lost by just over 5,000 votes.

One of the ads aired in the weeks leading up to election day features a transgender male student defeating a female competitor in the wrestling ring. “All any athlete wants is a fair shot in competition,” asked an unseen narrator in the 38-second clip. “But what if the rules change?” Another commercial depicted a trans runner dominating a girls’ track meet and claimed that Beshear “supports legislation that would destroy girls’ sports.”

A text alert sent to voters after the commercial underlined the alleged absurdity of the scenario. “You can’t make this stuff up!” the message read.

Politico notes that Republicans remain divided on the strategy’s effectiveness after former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory was booted out of office following the passage of House Bill 2, with 57 percent of voters citing the controversial anti-trans bathroom bill as a key reason not to reelect him. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and son-in-law, reportedly oppose the tactic, as do openly gay former ambassador Richard Grennell and Trump aide Hope Hicks.



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