Perfectly normal thing for a presidential candidate to do in the thick of a national campaign.
As comfortable as Mr. Trump may feel with Mr. Bannon’s style of politics, their unconventional alliance, and the possibility that the coming weeks could resemble a conservative publicity tour more than a conventional White House run, fueled speculation that Mr. Trump was already looking past November.
In recent months, Mr. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have quietly explored becoming involved with a media holding, either by investing in one or by taking one over, according to a person close to Mr. Trump who was briefed on those discussions.
When they say “in recent months,” how recent is “recent”? Trump’s only been down big in the polls for three weeks. You could, I guess, absolve him for secretly looking at post-election opportunities now that he’s losing by 10 in Pennsylvania, but what’s the excuse for him doing that back when Pennsylvania was neck and neck?
The media angle does add a certain logic to Steve Bannon’s promotion, though:
“This would seem to signal that Trump is ready to go double-barrel against all of Washington, Republicans and Democrats alike,” [a] GOP lawmaker [who’s a close ally of Paul Ryan] continued. “Breitbart takes a flamethrower to Washington and plays very loose with the facts. I would anticipate an even more bellicose, even less-connected-to-the-facts approach from the Trump campaign moving forward.”…
A second House Republican who has endorsed Trump said: “This doesn’t sound to me like someone interested in running a rational, positive message, let alone winning. Breitbart isn’t a legitimate news organization. It’s a disgraceful propaganda machine that is trying to divide the party.
“I think Trump wants to lose but have media control over 25 percent of the party so he can make money off of them.”
As Jeff Blehar said yesterday, you don’t hire Bannon if all you want to do is attack Hillary. A million different Republican operatives can help you do that. You hire Bannon if you want to attack the GOP. And Trump already has a problem with Republican voters, having lost five points among them since the Republican convention. Declaring war on Paul Ryan and the rest of the party means you’re prepared to shed some dependable red votes on the off-chance that it’ll help you earn even more blue and purple ones. On top of that, Trump’s favorable rating is already piss-poor, driven by the sense that he’s an overly combative loose cannon. Watching him throw roundhouses at his own party probably isn’t going to improve that. And even if Bannon keeps him more or less on track policy-wise, pushing a populist-nationalist message, Nate Silver’s right that the public already had a square look at that version of Trump at the convention. His acceptance speech was pure nationalism. He’s been sliding ever since.
If, however, bringing Bannon on has less to do with winning than with solidifying Trump’s populist brand before next year’s second act as head of a new news outlet, it makes more sense. The worst thing he could do at this point if he’s thinking of creating a populist news channel would be to follow Manafort’s playbook and tone things down. That’ll annoy his hardcore fans and it probably won’t do enough with everyone else to push him past Clinton. The savvy play, if you’re no longer invested much in winning the election, is to go the opposite way and get crazy with the populist cheez whiz. Make the fans happy and hope that Bannon’s longshot strategy of winning by becoming the Ultimate Outsider pays off. Winning at this point is a longshot anyway; you might as well gamble. If he ends up losing, at least he’ll make his fans happy for three months by bashing the GOP and cementing his reputation as someone willing to take it to both parties. And the defeat itself can and will doubtless be turned into a myth that he was stabbed in the back by the establishment, which will further bind his hardcore fans to him. That’s a solid base for an audience for whatever he ends up doing next year. He’ll end up getting 55 million votes in November even in a disaster scenario. If just 10 percent of those votes comes from people who are taken by him and his politics, that’s a formidable share of the cable news market. Now all he has to do is find the money. No problem for a guy who’s worth $10 billion, right?
If you’re looking for other “Trump’s trying to get into media” explanations for his candidacy today, Michael Moore has a post up at HuffPo claiming that he knows “for a fact” that Trump decided to run because he wanted more money from NBC for “The Apprentice” and thought a little presidential primary pizzazz would boost his profile enough that the network would give it to him. I prefer the “Trump’s getting back at political eggheads who laughed at him” creation myth for his run, but choose for yourself. Exit question: Has anyone asked Paul Ryan yet if he’s still onboard the Trump train now that Steve Bannon has joined him there? Even if Bannon hadn’t been the biggest media booster for Paul Nehlen, Ryan’s primary challenger, his website is known as the largest megaphone for alt-right voices in political media. Ryan attacked the alt-right the day before his primary, distinguishing it sharply from conservatism. If Trump’s now formally aligned with the alt-right rather than with the Republican right, why does Ryan continue to believe that he’ll be an ally of House Republicans as president?