Team Trump insists it’s a routine meeting but that’s not how Politico’s sources describe it, and that’s not the sort of meeting you’d expect when the nominee is sliding out of contention in early August. Two interesting details from Politico. One: It was Trump’s campaign, not the RNC, that allegedly requested the meeting. This isn’t a “Reince chews out Trump and his staff” thing. This is, supposedly, a “Trump’s staff begs the RNC for help” thing.
Two: Trump himself won’t be at the meeting, as he’s campaigning in Pennsylvania today. He was, however, in Florida yesterday. Why didn’t they hold the meeting on Thursday so that he could attend? Or did he not want to attend?
The request for the Orlando Ritz Carlton meeting originated with Trump’s campaign, according to a source familiar with the broad details, and is being viewed by RNC officials as a sign that the campaign has come to grips with the difficulty it is having in maintaining a message and running a ground game.
“They want to patch up a rift that just keeps unfolding,” one source said. “They finally realize they need the RNC for their campaign because, let’s face it, there is no campaign.”
Another person familiar with the meeting, a Republican operative who works with the campaign, said the planned gathering was “a come-to-Jesus meeting.” That source said that many Trump campaign staffers share the party officials’ frustrations with Trump’s penchant for self-sabotaging rhetoric. “What’s bothering people on the campaign is that they feel like they’re doing all the right things, but they’re losing every news cycle to Hillary and there’s nothing they can do about it.”…
An RNC member said discontent with the Trump campaign has hit new heights in recent days, describing “major tumult in the building and staff problems and disagreements and RNC staff on the edge of mutiny.”
“There is no campaign.” Ed noted yesterday that Trump has virtually nothing happening on the ground yet in Cincinnati, an alarming oversight but one that’s confined to one county and which will supposedly be remedied soon. Politico, however, points out that Trump has exactly one office open right now in the entire state of Florida, which of course is an absolute must-win for him. “Where the hell are they?” asked one GOP operative. Republicans claim that 25 field offices will be opening across the state this month, but Clinton’s people are already in the field organizing. Today’s “emergency meeting” suggests that Trump’s deputies understand that the situation is critical and they’re moving to do what they can with the RNC to build a ground game on the fly.
Does the candidate understand it’s critical, though? This is hair-raising:
The Trump campaign has asked the RNC to open offices in all 50 states, a move one party aide told Daniel is a “complete waste of resources.” For example, why boost resources in a state like Idaho, which is going to vote for Trump, or states like Hawaii or Massachusetts that certainly will not? An RNC source said it was a “fool’s errand” and more for Trump’s “ego” and for “bragging” purposes, instead of deft campaign strategy. The source said it was a “personal request” by Trump to have offices in all 50 states.
No serious candidate would ask the RNC to crap money away on an office in California or Oklahoma knowing that the party is already being outraised and outorganized by Democrats and that Republican Senate candidates downballot desperately need every dollar the RNC can spare. If it’s true that Trump made a “personal request” to squander cash this way, it’s smoking-gun proof that’s he doesn’t care about protecting the Senate and/or that he’s so disconnected from the reality of the electoral college that he genuinely believes that 50 states are in play. Don’t rule out the latter possibility: Not long ago, Trump’s trusted advisor Newt Gingrich was crowing that Trump should campaign in all 50.
But it gets worse:
“One of the big things about the RNC is they have this whole infrastructure of data and information and contacts and email lists and mailing lists and phone numbers. That is something that is important to your campaign,” Bolling said. “That’s not at risk. Is that in jeopardy at all?”
“I don’t know. I will let you know on the ninth, on November 9th,” Trump replied.
“We are gonna have tremendous turnout from the evangelicals, from the miners, from the people that make our steel, from people that are getting killed by trade deals, from people that have been just decimated, from the military who are with Trump 100 percent,” he went on. “From our vets because I’m going to take care of the vets.”
“I don’t know that we need to get out the vote,” the Republican nominee concluded. “I think people that really want to vote, they’re gonna just get up and vote for Trump. And we’re going to make America great again.”
That may be the first and almost certainly will be the last time a major-party nominee for president utters the words, “I don’t know that we need to get out the vote.” Watch the exchange for yourself below from 8:55 to 9:55.
As I say, the intrigue in all of this isn’t the schism between Trump’s campaign and the RNC but whether there’s a schism developing between Trump and his own campaign. For all his faults, Paul Manafort is not a guy whom you’d catch saying, “I don’t know what we need to get out the vote.” On the contrary, he supplanted Corey Lewandowski as campaign manager because he was seen as someone who’d help professionalize the campaign, influencing Trump’s choices (e.g., Pence over Christie as VP in the name of party unity) and doing the nuts and bolts stuff on the ground in swing states to keep pace with Clinton. It was Lewandowski who reportedly thought that the path to victory lay in simply letting Trump be Trump on the trail and on TV and then sitting back as the votes rolled in. That worked fine in the primaries, but promoting Manafort was, in theory, a concession that what worked in the primaries wouldn’t work in the general. If all of that is true, watching Trump get sidetracked by the Khans and then screwing around with “Obama founded ISIS” talking points must be driving Manafort and his people batty. There were reports 10 days ago about Manafort and his staff being “suicidal” about Trump’s lack of discipline; meanwhile, Trump told Time magazine just in the last few days, “Well, I’m running it differently than I did the primaries. I am listening to so-called experts to ease up the rhetoric, and so far, I’m liking the way I ran in the primaries better.” We may be reaching the point where Manafort gives Trump an ultimatum that he can either do everything by the book over the next three months, the way Manafort and his staff want it, or he can bring Corey back and go down in flames “letting Trump be Trump.” We’ll see.
One other thing to watch in the clip: At 7:35, Eric Bolling mentions the pressure the RNC is getting to cut off Trump’s money and repurpose it for more winnable Senate races. Trump says it’s not true — but warns that if it is true, then obviously that’s the end of his fundraising efforts for the GOP. Having the head of the party allegedly threatening the nominee over money and then the nominee threatening the party over money himself on national TV seems like a good place to be three months out from the election.