Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Lessons of a Floundering Campaign

One of the interesting things about this year's presidential campaign is that extent to which it underlines something which one can otherwise miss: that a run for the presidency does not simply consist of a smart or inspiring would-be leader traveling the country and giving a lot of talks, but rather the creation and management of a whole start-up-type organization to both put out the campaigns message and turn out its voters. A successful campaign organization not only serves to get its candidate elected, but also provides the kernel from which the new administration grows.

Normally this goes on behind the scenes, but this year it's being thrown into the light because Donald Trump is completely failing to successfully create such an organization thus far, and it's beginning to show. The Washington Post writes:
While he could manage a stunning turnaround, at the moment Trump seems to have put together one of the worst presidential campaigns in history. Let’s take a look at all the major disadvantages Trump faces as we head toward the conventions:

A skeletal campaign staff. Trump succeeded in the primaries with a small staff whose job was to do little more than stage rallies. But running a national campaign is hugely more complex than barnstorming from one state to the next during primaries. While the Clinton campaign has built an infrastructure of hundreds of operatives performing the variety of tasks a modern presidential campaign requires, the Trump campaign “estimates it currently has about 30 paid staff on the ground across the country,” a comically small number.

Not enough money, and little inclination to raise it. Trump hasn’t raised much money yet, and he doesn’t seem inclined to do so; according to one report, after telling Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus that he’d call 20 large donors to make a pitch, he gave up after three. Fundraising is the least pleasant part of running for office, but unlike most candidates who suck it up and do what they have to, Trump may not be willing to spend the time dialing for dollars. Instead, he’s convinced that he can duplicate what he did in the primaries and run a low-budget campaign based on having rallies and doing TV interviews. As he told NBC’s Hallie Jackson, “I don’t think I need that money, frankly. I mean, look what we’re doing right now. This is like a commercial, right, except it’s tougher than a normal commercial.” It’s not like a commercial, because in interviews Trump gets challenged, and usually says something that makes him look foolish or dangerous. But he seems convinced that his ability to get limitless media coverage, no matter how critical that coverage is, will translate to an increase in support.

The Federal Election Commission filing which Trump's campaign just made for May shows how shockingly this lackadaisical approach is putting him behind the Democrats:

Despite raising $3.1 million and loaning himself another $2 million, Trump began this month with less than $1.3 million cash on hand.

Clinton, by comparison, raised $28 million and started off June with $42 million in cash. Bernie Sanders, with his campaign winding down, still brought in $15.6 million last month and had $9.2 million cash on hand.

And although Trump had claimed he might self fund his campaign, it sounds more like he's using his campaign to fund himself, making large payments from the campaign to his own companies, allegedly to pay for travel and hosting events:
Trump spent $6.7 million in May. That’s down from $9.4 million in April, but it’s actually a pretty stunning amount when you consider that he’s not advertising or building a serious field operation. So where did all the money go? Matea Gold and Anu Narayanswamy report that the campaign paid out more than $1 million to Trump-owned companies and to reimburse his own family for travel expenses. Here are some of the campaign's biggest expenditures:

  • Campaign swag and printing - $958,836: Hats, pens, T-shirts, mugs and stickers
  • Air charters - $838,774: “Nearly $350,000 of the money spent on private jets went to Trump's own TAG Air.”
  • Event staging and rentals - $830,482: This includes the fees for renting facilities such as the Anaheim Convention Center ($43,000) and the Fresno Convention Center ($24,715). But the biggest sum went to Trump's own Mar-A-Lago Club, which was paid $423,317. Meanwhile, the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, got $35,845, while the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fl., was paid $29,715. And Trump’s son Eric’s wine company received nearly $4,000.
This lack of organization on its own is going to hurt his campaign, reducing turnout in a GOP which already includes a lot of people (myself included) who loath the presumptive nominee. But it also provides another, subtler reason not to rally round the party banner. In normal times, a vote for the Republican nominee is a vote for the party. Sure, someone like McCain or Romney had significant weaknesses, but they at least followed the rule of having a large campaign organization full of the best among GOP policy makers and operatives. You weren't just voting for the guy at the top of the ticket, you were voting for the whole organization, many of the members of which agreed with a conservative Republican like me more than the actual nominee did.

Even now, if the party could somehow manage to sedate Trump, surround him with party operatives, and possess him with the re-animated spirit of Romney, I might be persuaded to vote for him -- so long as we could be sure that the brain of The Donald would not escape from whatever jar it was imprisoned in and come back like some rampaging alien to wreck chaos upon the government. But Trump's failure to build a credible campaign organization doesn't just mean that he'll have a much harder time making a half creditable run for the presidency. It also means that he lacks the apparatus through which the party might provide the assurance of continuity with the policies and demeanor which previously loyal GOP voters such as myself desire. Rather than getting to elect a basically solid party, headed by a not-to-exciting candidate, we're being asked to vote for a volatile loose cannon all on his own.


Bernard Brandt said...

So, basically, Trump has pulled a Gingrich: tossed his hat into the ring, but not too much else. One hopes that he does not end as Mr. G. did.

My recollection is, however, that there's a fair amount of Feddl Guvmint money that is available to presidential candidates. He might want to look toward getting some of that. And, what with the present media, I'm sure we will get plenty of variations on the theme: Trump as Welfare Queen.

Darwin said...

That's a good point. During the last couple election cycles we've had candidates opt out of public funding so that they can do unlimited fundraising. Perhaps the Big D will opt in to public funding and start a new fashion for small (if not modest) campaigns.

Jenny said...

Who would have ever thought that a man who made a career out of enriching himself and leaving others to hold an empty bag would use a presidential campaign to enrich himself and leave the Republicans holding an empty bag. I'm shocked! Shocked, I tell you.

August said...

Did this come out before or after Trump banned WP reporters from his campaign?

The guy has money. He's not acting like other politicians because he doesn't need to. If he's got to spend money he will. Look at the news- they keep making him look right. It is almost sad. The media laughs at him for saying something, and a few weeks later there is Orlando. Or even sillier- these an idiot government agency trying to waste water in California for the sake of little three inch fish.

I am also wondering if he's got connections with the F.B.I. Are they waiting until after her nomination to indict her? She's made a lot of enemies in that town.