When Schilling considered the range of issues making centrist voters and suburban parents uncomfortable, the one that stood out to him was transgender rights: an issue that had largely been absorbed into the Democratic platform, but which he suspected many Americans were still processing themselves. But what was the right angle to take? Earlier that summer, American Principles Project had partnered with a behavioral science firm to assess whether focusing on transgender issues could turn educated suburbanites into Republican voters. APP and its data partner, Evolving Strategies, analyzed how thousands of registered Kentucky voters reacted to different messages about what they described as Beshear’s “extreme” support for transgender rights. Should men be allowed to participate in sports events for women and girls? Andy Beshear thinks so. Should men be permitted to use women’s restrooms because they identify as transgender women? Andy Beshear thinks so.

“What we found was the sports issue got the most powerful response from people, specifically conservative Democrats and independents,” Schilling would explain to me later…

In a campaign that has already become defined by the president’s controversial defense of Confederate monuments and attacks on anti-racism protesters, Schilling is hoping that stoking anxieties of suburban women and independents about gender nonconforming adolescents will persuade President Donald Trump to add one more front to his culture war reelection strategy.