We were destined to see a major “Trump in disarray!” piece from political media on a day when he’s looking at a loss in Wisconsin, just like we’re destined to see “Trump comeback!” pieces two weeks from now when he wipes the floor with Cruz in New York. Even so, the layoffs reported here are odd. What possible reason could a billionaire candidate have to slash staff at a moment when he’s desperate for people to help him organize his battle for delegates with Cruz? Even if he had the nomination locked up, why would he want to shed staffers in states like Ohio and Florida for which he’ll have to fight tooth and nail in November? One of the biggest worries among political pros in having Trump as nominee is that Democrats will run rings around him organizationally, given his strategy of trying to beat Cruz’s superior GOTV operations through sheer media muscle. Now here he is stripping his already mediocre organization down further. Why the hell would he do that?
I’ve said this before but it can’t be said enough: As well as he’s done in the primaries thus far, imagine how well Trump could be doing if he’d spent big money on organization and ads. It’s not overstating it to say that Ted Cruz still has a chance at the nomination only because Trump’s inattentiveness to campaign fundamentals (and frugality?) has permitted it.
At the moment, though, Trump’s team appears to be something of a patchwork group without much experience—partly because so many staffers are being fired.
Only four of 11 Iowa staffers continued on after Trump lost that state’s caucuses in February. More recently, most of Trump’s South Carolina, Florida and Ohio teams have not had their contracts renewed, according to a person familiar with the campaign, who said the lack of organization in Florida was putting Trump at a disadvantage in the delegate selection process…
Multiple staffers and advisors left the campaign last month in protest of the way its management was treating its staff, a source familiar with the departures told POLITICO.
“I believe that Donald Trump has the backbone to fix this country, but if changes are not made soon at the top I am fairly convinced that he will lose,” said one of the people who left the campaign. The person said morale among the campaign staff is sinking, attributing that to the layoffs, as well as Lewandowski’s profanity-laced outburst on campaign calls.
“I don’t think Mr. Trump knows what’s happening on his campaign,” the person said, adding “everyone is in astonishment of what’s going on. It’s almost like they’re sabotaging themselves.”
The head of the data team was reportedly laid off a month ago and was replaced by his deputy, who hadn’t spent much time on political strategy before joining Team Trump. If you believe Politico, some of the campaign’s files are now inaccessible since the lead data guy left. Corey Lewandowski naturally denies that there’s any disarray and that anyone’s ever objected to him cursing, although the fact that his role in the campaign is reportedly shrinking is further circumstantial evidence that strange things are afoot. Ah well. At least Trump’s “private mercenary force” of security people is still on its game.
Question for campaign pros: Assuming that Politico’s theory of “disarray” is hyperbole, what’s the logical explanation for laying off staffers during crunch time of a long primary with a general election on the horizon? Is the campaign running low on cash with Trump unwilling to pony up what he needs to make the delegate fight with Cruz more competitive? If so, isn’t that another way of saying that he doesn’t want to be president that badly? I’m skeptical of that theory, but more people seem to be coming around to it every week: “There is a lifelessness to the Trump campaign lately, a kind of refusal to stand up and do the hard work of reuniting a party that he has shattered or building an organization that can mount an effective national campaign.” He’s barely begun building a fundraising network, per New York magazine, which he’ll surely need to keep pace with Democrats, even though he’s been the national frontrunner for nearly a year and could find himself at the start of the general election campaign as soon as … tomorrow, really, if Wisconsin goes his way tonight. Is the explanation just that Trump’s been winging it since the beginning and intends to keep doing so for the duration of the campaign? That’s a fine argument for delegate to choose him over Cruz on the floor in Cleveland.
Semi-relatedly, here’s a snapshot of Reuters’s national tracking poll among likely Republican voters since January 1st. The orange line is Trump, the red line is Cruz. What’s different lately?
I doubt you’ll see any of that Cruzmentum show up in New York two weeks from now, but if you’re searching for evidence that his (likely) win in Wisconsin tonight is a sign of a broader national shift, there you have it.