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Democrats spent 6 months of research developing 'ultra-MAGA' barb, but it may backfire as Trump and Republicans embrace the supposed insult

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Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Last October, an NBC Sports reporter attempted to go into damage control when a crowd was chanting "F*** Joe Biden" at a NASCAR race. The reporter claimed that the crowd was showing support for the winning driver, Brandon Brown, by shouting, "Let's go Brandon!"

The phrase "Let's go Brandon" instantly became a rallying call for detractors of President Joe Biden. "Let's go Brandon" has been chanted at sporting events, heard in rap songs, and seen on license plates, restaurant signs, shirts, flags, luggage, face masks, and even golf balls.

Democrats may have undertaken an extensive quest to discover their own version of the "Let's go Brandon" slogan.

The Washington Post reported this week that Democrats have spent six months attempting to develop a catchphrase to try to hurt Republicans heading into the 2022 midterm elections. The final result from the six months of research is "ultra-MAGA."

The "ultra-MAGA" term was the strategy developed by the liberal group Center for American Progress Action Fund – which is headed by top Biden aide Anita Dunn.

Polling and focus group testing done by the Hart Research and the Global Strategy Group indicated that potential voters saw the term "MAGA" more negatively than other labels such as "Trump Republicans."

"In battleground areas, more than twice as many voters said they would be less likely to vote for someone called a 'MAGA Republican' than would be more likely," the Washington Post reported. "The research also found that the description tapped into the broad agreement among voters that the Republican Party had become more extreme and power-hungry in recent years."

Navin Nayak – the president and executive director of CAP Action Fund – told the Washington Post that "ultra-MAGA" is a "versatile epithet" because "all of that extremism gets captured in that brand."

"We are not trying to create a new word," Nayak added. "This is how they define themselves."

President Joe Biden first employed the phrase on May 4, while speaking to reporters about deficit reduction at the White House. Biden said "ultra-MAGA" and "MAGA" on 10 different occasions – mostly used in an attack on Sen. Rick Scott's (R-Fla.) "Rescue America" plan.

"This MAGA crowd is really the most extreme political organization that's existed in American history, in recent American history," Biden told reporters.

While giving a statement on the economy on Tuesday, Biden used "ultra-MAGA" or "MAGA" five more times in reference to the popular campaign slogan of former President Donald Trump.

During a fundraising event in Chicago on Wednesday, President Biden uttered the focus group-approved lingo three more times.

"But we have to take on the — MAGA Republicans — 'Make America Great Again' Republicans. I think they’re the most extreme party," Biden said at the Democratic National Committee fundraiser. "And that’s what the Republican Party is now. Not everybody Republican believes that. But the fact of the matter is, they run the show — the MAGA Republicans."

Also on Wednesday, President Biden addressed the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 40th Annual Conference – where he recited the phrase five more times. Biden even called Trump "the great MAGA king."

"Under my predecessor, the great MAGA king, the deficit increased every single year he was president," Biden said of Trump. "The first year of my presidency — the first year, I reduced the deficit — literally reduced the deficit by $350 billion."

Ashley Parker – who wrote the Washington Post piece – noted, "Trump 'absolutely loved' co-opting Biden’s new nickname for him — 'the great MAGA king' — and has privately mocked Biden and Democrats’ 'ultra MAGA' taunt as coming from bad branders, who don’t understand the art of marketing."

Trump reacted to being called the "great MAGA king" by sharing a meme of him photoshopped on the cover of a "Lord of the Rings" movie on his Truth Social platform.

Trump also thanked Biden for the compliment, “The Great MAGA King is the name Joe Biden is now using to describe me. Thank you, Joe. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!”

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) also embraced the supposed barb, and declared, "I am ultra MAGA, and I'm proud of it."

Meanwhile, other Republicans are capitalizing on the Democrats trying to make the "MAGA" phrase great again.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is giving away 1,000 "ultra-MAGA" t-shirts away.

Trump's Save America Joint Fundraising Committee is offering "ultra-MAGA" t-shirts in exchange for a $45 contribution.

The Washington Post report that the phrase was developed by focus groups seems to contradict a claim by former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

On Tuesday, Psaki claimed that "ultra-MAGA" was "the president's phrase and the president made those comments himself." Psaki said that President Biden added "ultra" to give "MAGA" a "little extra pop."

"But I can tell whether it’s tomorrow or in days and weeks ahead, you will all continue to hear him talk more about his concern about ultra-MAGA Republicans and their agenda," Psaki told reporters.

Other Democrat leaders have also adopted the "MAGA" messaging at the same time President Biden did.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) used the phrase "MAGA Republicans" on Tuesday, "For MAGA Republicans, this has never been about states’ rights. It has always been about getting rid of abortion altogether. Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act to protect abortion rights. We will see where every single senator stands."

Democratic Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on Thursday, "The single most patriotic thing a person can do is fight for their rights. You better believe I’m going to fight for women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, voting rights and every other freedom the MAGA crowd or Supreme Court is trying to take away."

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