If anyone doubted that the Republican Party was a wholly owned subsidiary of Trump Inc, a new deal announced yesterday put any residual skepticism to rest. The RNC will merge with Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign for both fundraising and field operations. The unprecedented merger offers greater efficiency, but also a bigger risk for Republicans for as long as Robert Mueller’s probe continues:
Under the plan, which has been in the works for several weeks, the Trump reelection campaign and the RNC will merge their field and fundraising programs into a joint outfit dubbed Trump Victory. The two teams will also share office space rather than operate out of separate buildings, as has been custom.
The goal is to create a single, seamless organization that moves quickly, saves resources, and — perhaps most crucially — minimizes staff overlap and the kind of infighting that marked the 2016 relationship between the Trump campaign and the party. While a splintered field of Democrats fight for the nomination, Republicans expect to gain an organizational advantage. …
Speaking to the departure from presidential campaign tradition, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called it “the biggest, most efficient and unified campaign operation in American history.”
This also sends another message to would-be primary challengers: Get out. How can anyone mount a challenge in the next two years within an RNC that is literally the incumbent president’s organization? One would have to look at the DNC and its constant propping up of Hillary Clinton at Bernie Sanders’ expense for precedent, although at least this is being done publicly and explicitly. The entire party organization will be brought to bear against any challengers, which might have happened anyway but at least would have had a veneer of independence under normal circumstances.
It seems that John Kasich’s team heard the message loud and clear:
“There are some people who choose for whatever reason to handcuff themselves to the Titanic,” said John Weaver, an adviser to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is considering challenging Trump in the Republican primary. “Why, I have no idea.”
So will Jeff Flake, if he ever was serious about the idea. More importantly, so will the deep-pocket donors that may have been tempted to back them. Now that the RNC has put all its resources into Trump’s hands, there’s even less incentive for a party revolt.
Does this mean that the RNC is at risk of a bad result from the Mueller probe? More at risk, probably, although it had plenty of risk in that scenario already. The worst-case scenario is a report that does serious damage to Trump but still leaves him in the race. The RNC would need a lot of time to extricate itself and its resources from Team Trump in that scenario. The issues get simpler if Trump leaves office or the 2020 election campaign, as the RNC would just reconstitute itself without any competition for the combined resources. And if Trump gets a clean bill of health from Mueller, then it doesn’t make much difference at all — at least at the presidential level.
However, there is a more important risk in this merger. How will this organization disburse resources to important down-ballot campaigns and operations? Trump is not a man who shares the wealth willingly, a situation which calls out even more for an independent party operation. Will the Republican Leadership Initiative continue focusing on expanding the reach of the party into communities where Republicans rarely tread, or will it just become an arm of MAGA and nothing else? In the short run, the latter will be more efficient, but in the long run it might stunt any potential growth of the party’s voter base.
If Trump loses with this combined operation, get set for another “autopsy.”