Editor’s Note: Lincoln Mitchell teaches in the political science department at Columbia University. His most recent book is “San Francisco Year Zero: Political Upheaval Punk Rock and a Third Place Baseball Team.” (Rutgers University Press, 2019) Follow him on Twitter @LincolnMitchell. The opinions expressed here are his own. Read more opinion at CNN.

CNN  — 

The Lincoln Project has vaulted into the center of this presidential election through a barrage of the best campaign ads in the 2020 race. “This is how it starts,” an ominous male voice intones as one spot opens with a black and white picture of the White House. The voice warns of a President out of control, a rogue attorney general and “shadowy men” who “snatch so-called enemies of the state” off the street.

Lincoln Mitchell

Images of a frightening (and frightened) looking President Donald Trump fade into images of federal troops – “faceless enforcers” – arresting or beating peaceful demonstrators. “This is how freedom dies,” says the narrator, urging Americans to register to vote in November. “Because if we don’t, we know how it ends.” The closing image fades to a phalanx of police in riot gear.

Another ad features a gentler-sounding female narrator. “Something’s wrong with Donald Trump,” she says. “He’s shaky, weak. Trouble speaking. Trouble walking.” Footage shows Trump using two hands to drink water during a speech and shuffling down a ramp after a speech at West Point. “The most powerful office in the world needs more than a weak, shaky, unfit president,” notes the narrator. “Trump doesn’t have the strength to lead. Nor the character to admit it.”

Lincoln Project co-founder Reed Galen says these ads are meant for an audience of one: Trump himself. And they seem to have been successful at getting inside Trump’s head, with the President taking pains to make a show of his ability to drink water with one hand at his Tulsa rally.

But will these ads get inside the heads of the voters enough to affect the election?

The Lincoln Project ads are unusual. They haven’t been made by Democrats but by supporters of Trump’s own party.

Founded by a group of Republicans who are not only disaffected with Trump and the Republicans who continue to support him, they’re explicit in their support for Joe Biden. Among the project’s more prominent members are George Conway, an influential conservative lawyer who is married to top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, as well as some of the party’s most well-known political operatives including Steve Schmidt, Rick Wilson and John Weaver. Their work is attracting attention across and beyond the political spectrum, from comedians to conservative critics to progressives who do not trust the Lincoln Project.

What is less certain than these strong reactions is whether the ability to trend on social media will translate into votes for Biden. The ads have had a relatively limited reach thus far. As of mid-July, the Lincoln Project’s total spending was less than $10 million, although the group has indicated it plans to raise and spend considerably more than that. That is nowhere near enough money to buy enough airtime to reach uncommitted voters. For comparison, in the most competitive House races in 2018 total spending generally exceeded $15 million and in some cases was three or four times that high.

Many who view the Lincoln Project’s work will see it on a friend’s social media feed or because somebody emailed it to them. This kind of viral activity can travel far, but it’s is less likely to reach the uncommitted voters that political campaigns need to target right now.

Television remains the most popular source of news in America, and a Pew Research Center study last year found that only 22% of Americans are on Twitter – a group more likely to be disproportionately young and Democrat supporters.

At this point in the election, most of those who get served the ads online are already paying a lot of