As the Democratic Party nomination race reaches its climax in California this week, we already knew that real estate failure turned reality show star turned Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was not making a ‘pivot’ for the general election.
But now it turns out that he still hasn’t even assembled a real campaign team, either.
According to GOP sources who spoke to MSNBC reporters, Trump’s leadership style is producing a “bare-bones effort debilitated by infighting, a lack of staff to carry out basic functions, minimal coordination with allies and a message that’s prisoner to Trump’s momentary whims.”
Veteran operatives are shocked by the campaign’s failure to fill key roles. There is no communications team to deal with the hundreds of media outlets covering the race, no rapid response director to quickly rebut attacks and launch new ones, and a limited cast of surrogates who lack a cohesive message.
“They don’t or can’t cover it all, and there are things that happen that need to be addressed immediately and don’t get addressed at all, and that hurts the candidate,” a source within the campaign groused last month.
Trump’s widely-discussed comments regarding Judge Gonzalo Curiel, whom he incorrectly identified as a “Mexican,” are an example of what happens without that rapid response team in place.
Rather than let his surrogates deflect bad news from the Trump University fraud case with spin, Trump has spent days blasting Judge Curiel for supposed bias, deepening the public impression of racism.
When nobody in the Trump campaign or the Republican Party responded to Clinton’s foreign policy speech last week, save for the candidate himself firing off a single tweet, it wasn’t because they just decided to ignore her, either. Rather, the policy wonks who would ordinarily distribute talking points to campaign surrogates from the ‘war room’ have never been hired.
By the same token, Trump should have leaped all over the State Department Inspector General’s new report. While that document actually says very little that is damaging to Clinton, her enemies did not shy from spinning it as a terrible verdict against her — except for Trump, whose campaign said almost nothing on the subject because nobody was answering the phone.
Nor was Trump able to take advantage of the violence against his supporters in San Jose last week. Whereas a normal Republican campaign might have pressed the issue hard for weeks, hyping conservative victimization and framing the political opposition as ‘liberal fascists,’ we heard nary a peep from Trump’s operation.
There is no sign of unity or a spirit of teamwork.
Rivalry between Paul Manafort, an experienced political operator that Trump brought in to run his campaign, and embattled campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, has reportedly held back efforts to professionalize and expand the operation.
National Political Director Rick Wiley recently left the campaign after reports of infighting with Lewandowski, who is seen as an amateur by experienced electoral hands. Wiley has since been replaced by Jim Murphy, a Lewandowski friend.
Because he was in charge of the campaign’s tardy efforts at voter identification and database-building, Wiley’s dismissal indicates that Trump still rejects modern campaign techniques.
In short, Trump thinks he can win just by holding big rallies and putting his name in big headlines.
Instead of responding to attacks from the Clinton campaign or managing his own campaign in a consistent way, Trump enjoys telling his adoring crowds how “unfair” Judge Curiel has been. Sure, he loves the way they eat it up. And they love the way he dishes it out.
But it doesn’t get out the votes, and without chasing down millions of those, Donald Trump will never be president.
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