Michael Avenatti, lawyer for Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who says she was paid by Donald Trump’s lawyer to keep their affair a secret, isn’t officially running for president—yet.
The California-based attorney already has a political platform, a 2020 website, and a growing fan base of anti-Trump voters eager for a more muscular political movement.
Now he’s got a political campaign ad, albeit one he didn’t ask for or approve.
A Portland, Oregon media company say they were inspired by a the speech he gave a Democratic fundraiser last week in Iowa to make him ad for free. It’s being praised by Democratic strategists and voters, and widely circulated on Facebook and YouTube as a possible “way forward” for the party.
“What I fear for this Democratic party that I love is that we have a tendency to bring nail clippers to gunfights,” Avenatti said during the Iowa speech. The Democratic Party “must be a party that fights fire with fire,” instead, he said.
The ad features the most dramatic line of his speech: “When they go low, I say, we hit harder,” a direct repudiation of Michelle Obama’s 2016 convention speech about taking the higher ground against the opposition. After fast cuts of protesters and former presidents including Abraham Lincoln (yes, he was a Republican) and John F. Kennedy, the ad promises Avenatti will “Make America America Again.”
Positive reactions ranged from “goosebumps” to “he WILL TAKE NO PRISONERS.”
Sure, Avenatti, 47—who has never held political office—had a law firm go bankrupt, has a messy history with the IRS, and an angry estranged ex-wife. But Trump’s unlikely ascension as president has shown that experience isn’t necessary, and personal baggage no barrier—leading a number of private citizens to mull a challenge to him in 2020.
“Just about anybody thinks they can run for president now,” one longtime Democratic strategist told Quartz. The party’s problem is going to be convincing most of them they shouldn’t before campaigning begins in earnest ahead of the 2020 elections.
Avenatti could prove particularly hard for the party to shake. Senator Chuck Schumer and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi are pushing the lukewarm “A Better Deal for Our Democracy” slogan for November’s midterm elections and avoiding any talk of a Trump impeachment.
Avenatti has worked at a political opposition research firm run by Obama White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, on over 100 campaigns in dozens of US states, according to his bio. His pugilistic approach is already being embraced by some Democrats, even as its renounced by others.
Meanwhile, he is expanding his field of legal clients. This week he helped to reunite a 9-year-old and his mother from Guatemala separated by the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, representing the child in court. He’s representing dozens more, he told CNN after the tearful reunion.