Donald Trump will not win in November without massive assistance from the very people he claims to despise: the establishment elitists at the Republican National Committee.
The reason is simple. Trump has arrogantly refused to mount anything approaching a national campaign with dozens of field offices, a fundraising team, paid staff, key volunteers, and the all-important get-out -the vote apparatus. Instead, he is leaning on the RNC to do all that, plus ramrod a damage-control operation that was invisible during the latest blow-up with the judge of Mexican heritage.
Many Republicans have said in the past they’re sick of professional politicians, so why not give an amateur a chance.
Be careful what you wish for.
The real estate mogul’s operation has centered on his ability to gobble up news time with a stream of tweets, rallies and television hits, while largely outsourcing basic political functions such as fundraising and rapid-response efforts. He is leaning on the RNC even more as the race moves into the general-election phase, which requires intensive work to identify, persuade and mobilize voters.
The Trump campaign has yet to build out its headquarters or national staff, ending the primaries with just 70 employees compared with 732 on the payroll for presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. His backstop is the party: The RNC has deployed 461 field staffers to 16 states — more than it has ever had on the ground at this point in an election — while spending $100 million on its data and digital operations since the last presidential campaign. The investments were pushed by Chairman Reince Priebus after the Democrats outgunned the GOP in 2012.
“It creates an opportunity for the party to, for lack of a better term, show off what it’s been working on for the last 31/2 years and provide the campaign with the infrastructure they don’t have the time to build right now,” Walsh said.
“We are kind of the infantry coming up behind the campaign saying, ‘We’re here, how can we be helpful?’ And the Trump campaign has embraced that,” she added.
For the RNC to successfully take over many of the campaign’s traditional tasks requires trust, coordination and a unified strategy — all difficult to achieve under normal circumstances. But this year is anything but normal.
Priebus ended up deeply immersed in a behind-the-scenes effort this week to persuade Trump to walk back his accusations that a Latino federal judge was biased against him because of his ethnicity, even making editing suggestions to the statement that the candidate eventually released, according to people familiar with his role.
The team they have in place is very good,” said GOP strategist Mike DuHaime, who served as RNC political director during George W. Bush’s second term and helped guide the 2008 turnout effort. “I think what ultimately is missing is that it needs to mesh with the nominee’s. . . . No matter what the RNC does, it’s still up to the campaign to set the direction.”
The irony is that Trump trashed the RNC all during the campaign. Now, these establishment politicians are his only hope to be competitive with Clinton.
The RNC can’t instill a sense of self-discipline in a candidate that doesn’t have any. They can’t “set the direction” if the nominee’s campaign doesn’t know what it is. There is no messaging, no narrative, no coherence from the candidate. He says what he wants when he wants to, leaving surrogates to figure out how to amplify his words.
Trump has a potential gold mine of first-time white voters who, with a little stroking and a little persuasion, could be coaxed to the polls on election day. There are far more of these voters than first-time minority voters, so Trump’s advantage is obvious.
But they won’t show up unless someone asks them to vote. For that, a vast, efficient organization is needed. Trump doesn’t have it and it appears that the money won’t be there for the RNC to build it.
If Trump is far ahead, it won’t matter much. But since that isn’t likely, Trump supporters better hope that whatever operation the RNC establishment politicians can create will be good enough to put him over the top.