Hillary Clinton isn’t wasting any time in transitioning her operation toward the general election. She is already planning her lines of attack against Donald Trump and has begun shifting staff to the battleground states.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign is redeploying its army of primary election staff to traditional general election battleground states in preparation for a campaign against Republican Donald Trump, according to a senior campaign official.
The initial deployment is likely to hit states that have swung between Republicans and Democrats in recent cycles, according to the official, such as Ohio and Florida.
Additionally, with the billionaire businessman looking increasingly likely to be the GOP nominee, the Clinton campaign sees an opportunity to expand beyond this map, said the official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss internal plans and wouldn’t specify which new battleground states the campaign might initially target.
The redeployment comes as the campaign is ratcheting back advertising in upcoming Democratic primary states, including Oregon and California. It also follows a decision by her challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, to lay off hundreds of staff after losing four of five critical Eastern primary states to Clinton on Tuesday.
While Trump is right to consider himself the “presumptive nominee,” he is still involved in a campaign to win enough delegates for a first-round victory. By virtue of the competitive nature of the GOP nomination race, Trump can ill afford to take his eye off the ball in order to plan for the fall.
But the longer he waits — especially on developing the fundraising networks vital to be competitive with Clinton — the more perilous his position could become. The GOP candidate is going to have to raise a billion dollars to be competitive. Trump is rich but I doubt he would pour a billion dollars of his own money into the race. Nor can he expect to raise the cash via online donations. Even Obama had big donors backing him in 2008.
On the cusp of the Republican nomination, Donald Trump has no blueprint for raising the estimated $1 billion he’d need to take on the Democrats and no process in place to begin vetting vice presidential contenders, according to multiple people familiar with the campaign.
He says he has no plan to win a contested convention in Cleveland, confident he can succeed on the first ballot. And one month into the leadership of Paul Manafort, the strategist Trump hired in late March to professionalize his campaign, the internal squabbling hasn’t died down.
The lack of long-term planning highlights one of the Republican party’s biggest concerns about Trump: whether he can shift from insurgent bomb-thrower running on the force of his personality to Republican standard-bearer with a professional presidential operation. Trump’s advisers defend their approach.
“I think the campaign is totally focused on winning the nomination on the first ballot and positioning for the race against Hillary Clinton,” said Roger Stone, a longtime Trump ally, “and they’re well aware of both the opportunities and challenges they face in terms of fundraising and the vice presidency.”
Some Trump insiders say it’s hard to see much difference under Manafort so far – and suspect Trump still would have won the last few races without the changes to his campaign. Even Trump’s early attempts to look more “presidential” have been uneven, with his trademark combativeness flaring again and his first formal foreign policy speech this week being widely panned.
“It’s hard to be a successful candidate wrangler when the candidate won’t be wrangled,” Republican strategist Alex Castellanos said of Manafort. “It’s pretty clear that Donald Trump is his own campaign strategist, campaign manager and chief tweeter.”
Trump’s campaign will certainly grow and become more efficient, Castellanos said. “There is little point in judging his campaign by the standards of any previous effort. This is a totally different animal,” he said.
While the Trump campaign may be “different,” it is going to need cash to compete. Trump may turn up his nose at GOP whales who raise hundreds of millions of dollars, but he is going to need at least some of them to win. Can Trump get out of his own way and allow his campaign to succeed? So far he hasn’t shown that he can.