Can Donald Trump be convinced to impose some discipline on his campaign — and himself — now that the general election has begun? NBC News reports that the question has become so urgent that two key allies of Trump have started working on an “intervention” to right the Republican presidential campaign ship. Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani, two of Trump’s most loyal surrogates, reportedly will lead the charge:
Key Republicans close to Donald Trump’s orbit are plotting an intervention with the candidate after a disastrous 48 hours led some influential voices in the party to question whether Trump can stay at the top of the Republican ticket without catastrophic consequences for his campaign and the GOP at large.
Republican National Committee head Reince Priebus, former Republican New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are among the Trump endorsers hoping to talk the real estate mogul into a dramatic reset of his campaign in the coming days, sources tell NBC News.
The group of GOP heavyweights hopes to enlist the help of Trump’s children – who compromise [sic] much of his innermost circle of influential advisers – to aid in the attempt to rescue his candidacy. Trump’s family is considered to have by far the most influence over the candidate’s thinking at what could be a make-or-break moment for his campaign.
This part is especially delicious:
The idea is in its early stages, and there’s no guarantee that Trump’s team would entertain a conversation requiring such comprehensive changes for a candidate who has resisted calls to moderate his tone or reel in his most outlandish political positions.
It’s in its “early stages”? Why? Trump’s erratic campaign style has been evident for months. The problem now is that the race has become binary, all due respect to Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, and there are few other distractions to divert media attention from the mess Trump’s making in the opening week of the general-election campaign.
Still, if an intervention would succeed at all, it would have to include Gingrich and Giuliani, perhaps the only two senior GOP figures that Trump might respect. Even then, NBC’s Chuck Todd and Hallie Jackson note that they have to work through the Trump family to gain their support for the effort.
Gingrich made his concerns public this morning already. He told Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business Channel that Trump’s behavior is “very self-destructive,” and that Trump needs to stop throwing interceptions and get back to being Joe Montana:
Donald Trump’s behavior over the last week has been “very self-destructive” to his campaign, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Wednesday, comparing the Republican nominee to a Hall of Fame quarterback who is in the midst of an interception-throwing slump.
“Trump is still behaving like as though it was the primaries and there were 17 candidates. He has not made the transition to being the potential president of the United States, which is a much tougher league,” Gingrich said in an interview with Fox Business’ “Mornings with Maria.” “People are going to watch you every single day. They’re going to take everything they can out of context, and he is not yet performing at the level that you need to.” …
But with 97 days to go until Election Day, Gingrich pointed to “two huge advantages” in Trump’s favor: “One is the country really wants change, and the other is Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt and dishonest candidate we’ve ever had for president.”
“So there’s always going to be a residual possibility that Trump can win. The question is, can he in August slow down, take a deep breath and reorganize how he’s operating so that he gets to the standard of a potential president of the United States? He has not done that up to now,” Gingrich said. “It’s been significantly to his disadvantage.”
The point about the shift from primary thinking to playing in the general-election leagues is most pertinent. The seat-of-your-pants strategy worked for Trump in large part because the other 16 candidates spent most of their time trying to beat the rest to the Not-Trump position. That allowed Trump to manipulate the media while the other Republicans dug their own graves. By the time that Ted Cruz won the Not-Trump position to himself, it was far too late, and Trump didn’t pay any price for his erratic style.
Clearly that won’t be the case in an all-but-binary election campaign over the next three months, and the media has already begun flexing its muscles in this campaign — fueled, however, by Trump’s own lack of discipline. Fox’ Howard Kurtz acknowledges the latter, but calls out the media for its sudden sharp focus on the Republican nominee and its hyperbolic coverage:
Who could have predicted that the media would turn on its previous darling after he won the Republican nomination? John McCain and Mitt Romney, you can lower your hands now.
Gingrich has been an ideal surrogate to push back against this media bias, and he no doubt will play an important role in the days ahead in pointing out what Kurtz argues here. In fact, they clip Gingrich making that argument last night, so he hasn’t stopped being that surrogate anyway. But first, Trump has to stop the bleeding, and apparently Gingrich and Giuliani want to personally apply the bandages.
Update: I didn’t notice it at first, but there’s an important name missing from this list — Chris Christie. Why isn’t he participating in the intervention? He’s pouting, according to NBC’s Katy Tur:
. @KatyTurNBC reports Christie is not part of the intervention, sources say it's because he's still mad about the VP process.
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) August 3, 2016