Some polling from conservative groups shows that there is as much as 80 percent approval for Mr. Trump’s policies among people with a military background, even as his overall approval ratings among them hover closer to 60 percent.
It’s numbers like those that make strategists hopeful.
“We don’t need a 10 percent swing with veterans,” said Fred Wellman, an Army veteran and the senior adviser for veterans affairs for the Lincoln Project, a Republican-led effort to unseat Mr. Trump.
There has long been a distinct divide between high-ranking current and former military officials, many of whom long ago lost faith in Mr. Trump, some of them quite publicly, and the enlisted ranks, where his support may remain vigorous. Further, a vote lost to Mr. Trump does not necessarily translate into a vote for Mr. Biden; many of these voters disgusted with the president may simply abstain.
Still, groups like the Lincoln Project, and liberal veterans groups, are leaning heavily into Mr. Trump’s attempts to divert funds from military projects to pay for a border wall, for instance, or the poor state of military housing.
“The military community is somewhere between 28 to 30 million people,” Mr. Wellman said. “Then add in patriotic Americans. The majority of veteran and active duty members are Republicans, yes, but we just ask them why our military is living in moldy housing and Gold Star families treated like this? One to four percent is all we need.” He added that the group’s town hall meeting with veterans attracted 10,000 viewers on Tuesday.
VoteVets has raised $2 million so far to target voters in 16 battleground states with high concentrations of veteran and military family voters, largely by sending other veterans their way to prod them. The goal is to reach out to at least 250,000 voters by Election Day.
The group has retained Chuck Rocha, who was the architect of Senator Bernie Sanders’s outreach to Latino voters, to help amass a database of veterans and military voters who have reached out to VoteVets via social media, texts and other means.