“The establishment” in this case is the RNC, which Trump not long ago derided as a prime culprit in the “rigged system” that, er, ultimately nominated him for president. In fairness to him, the RNC always helps the party’s presidential nominee with the general campaign. They’ve had staff in place in battleground states literally for years preparing for that very role. It’d be silly for Trump not to avail himself of the assistance. The difference between him and a well-organized traditional candidate like Cruz, though, is that the latter brings with him to the general election a large campaign operation of his own that’s had recent experience winning elections in key states. The RNC, in other words, is designed to be a force multiplier for the nominee, not the entire force, especially since it’s also consumed with getting Republicans elected down-ballot.
Problem is, Trump’s “organization” consists mainly of an inner circle of yes-men advisors plus the entire national media, which, by putting him on air morning, noon, and night, enables him to reach individual voters more comprehensively than his opponents could through conventional means. That is to say, Trump hasn’t needed a robust GOTV operation thus far because he’s his GOTV operation. (So much so that he felt comfortable enough to fire Rick Wiley, who was in charge of hiring field staff in battleground states.) If that media advantage continues into the fall then letting the RNC handle the grunt work of knocking on doors might prevent his organizational disadvantage from becoming fatal. If it doesn’t continue, gulp.
David Drucker wrote a story about Trump’s heavy reliance on the RNC for campaign infrastructure a few days ago but the man himself all but confirmed it in his press conference in North Dakota yesterday. “Old: GOPe sucks,” wrote Greg Pollowitz, summing up Trump’s approach. “New: We’ll rely on the GOPe for everything.”
The RNC has spent the last three years building, from scratch, a modern voter turnout that was always intended to serve as the foundation for the eventual 2016 nominee’s campaign infrastructure. That includes 287 paid staff in 11 battleground states, plus another 179 set to joint them.
But the assumption was always that the presidential nominee would bring something the table in the way of field and data analytics, built during the primary contest, as is typical of Republican standard bearers. Trump isn’t the typical candidate, and is instead handing off responsibility for voter turnout to the RNC.
The move is making some Republicans nervous. They fear the committee will be too consumed with Trump to focus on House, Senate and governors races…
“As far as building the infrastructure of the campaign, the RNC has been doing it for many years. Reince has really upped it and all over the country they have very good people,” Trump told reporters during a news conference while campaigning in North Dakota.
It’s not just organizationally that Trump is lacking, notes Drucker. The RNC also relies on the candidate to bring his own fundraising network to the general election to help lighten the load on the party financially. That’s a big reason (although not the only reason, of course) why they favor establishment candidates in the first place. The Romneys of the party are chummy with business-class Republicans and have spent years developing goodwill with them. When the time comes for the general election, they shake their tin cup and the money rolls in. Trump doesn’t have that same goodwill. Many GOP fatcats will donate anyway out of pure partisan loyalty, but not all will. If the overall haul this year is smaller than expected, Trump and Priebus will have to ration what they’ve got between the presidential election and House and Senate races. Someone’s going to get shafted. In fact, I wonder if Reince isn’t going to end up approaching anti-Trump Republicans and begging them to at least donate directly to congressional candidates instead. The “Save the Senate” pitch could be a winner with some holdouts. Either way, though, it’s more work for the RNC.
And if this report is true, the RNC’s already got its work cut out for it:
The Republican National Committee is scrambling to respond to increasingly frantic concerns from state GOP officials that the party has not provided enough field organizers and will be badly outgunned by Democrats in battleground states.
POLITICO surveyed nearly two dozen GOP chairmen, officials and operatives in key swing states who said the RNC hadn’t delivered on promises, imperiling their ability to launch the robust voter-turnout operation needed in the general election…
On Thursday, the RNC released a memo saying it intended to double its field staff in battleground states. Top Senate campaign officials reacted with skepticism, saying that even with the boost promised, the GOP is still behind on the timeline. And in the battleground states, party operatives said they remain unclear the added commitment will bring the ground operations to levels promised in the fall.
Why hasn’t the RNC beefed up its staff sooner? Money, mainly. Because the primary ran long, it delayed the formation of a joint fundraising operation between the RNC and the nominee that the party relies on to bring in the big bucks. Then again, the Democratic primary has run even longer and opinion seems to be unanimous that the Dems are ahead of the GOP organizationally. Makes me wonder whether, given Hillary’s superior operation but weak candidacy and Trump’s sui generis strengths but poor operations, we might end up with a strange outcome this fall in which Trump defeats Hillary but Democrats beat Republicans fairly decisively down-ballot. Trump’s media ubiquity and infrastructure support from the RNC might be enough to get him over the hump, but as the party is stretched thin and as many Trump fans decide that Trump’s the only Republican whose victory they care about, a bunch of close congressional races might tilt blue. When was the last time the White House and the Senate changed hands in the same election — in opposite directions?
Via BuzzFeed, here’s Reince Priebus insisting, not incorrectly, that nominating Hillary Clinton might be one of the biggest blunders in Democratic history. Her favorable rating is nearly as bad as Trump’s; no matter how many people dislike him, her unlikability and shadiness are going to keep him in the game. November may end up as a simple question of which party’s primary voters made the bigger mistake.