You think Reince Priebus flew Trump Air yesterday for nothing, bro? It was insurance against exactly this sort of popular insurrection against the Republican establishment in crunch time of the election. Reince is a hostage of Trump’s base, and the first rule of taking hostages is that you don’t start executing them until your demands have been refused. Right now, Trump’s demands are still being met: The RNC is still running his ground game and the chairman is still standing by the nominee, which is helping to prevent a total dam break among Republican officials. If Team Trump repays that by attacking the RNC and Republican incumbents, it could spread among the grassroots and suddenly there’s a de facto boycott downballot in November, dooming the GOP majorities in Congress. Reince would walk away from the campaign as the rebellion spreads and take what’s left of Trump’s turnout operation with him, turning an all-but-sure loss into a sure loss. The two sides need to play nice, for their mutual benefit.
Corey Stewart, the Virginia campaign chairman who took to Facebook yesterday to promote a protest outside RNC headquarters, was thus very far off the reservation — so much so that the Trump campaign, which likes to tout Trump’s loyalty to those who are loyal to him, canned him this afternoon.
Dave Bossie the deputy campaign manager for Trump released the following statement on Monday:
“Former Virginia State Chairman Corey Stewart is no longer affiliated with the Donald J. Trump for President campaign. He is being replaced, effective immediately. Corey made this decision when he staged a stunt in front of the RNC without the knowledge or the approval of the Trump campaign.”
Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway added: “We have a tremendous working relationship with the RNC. Chairman Reince Priebus has been an engaged and incredibly supportive ally to Mr. Trump throughout the campaign. The Chairman and his top executives, Katie Walsh and Sean Spicer, have stood shoulder to shoulder with us as we have enhanced our field team, data operation, fundraising and ground game efforts over the past couple of months.”
Stewart’s co-chair in Virginia said he was told in advance not to move ahead with the protest but did so anyway. “We’re running a national campaign, not a gubernatorial race,” said the co-chair. What’d he mean by that? Ah — Stewart, it turns out, wants to run for governor of Virginia but he’ll be a longshot against better-funded, higher-profile Republicans. A populist stunt aimed at the RNC was an easy way to promote himself as a Paul-Nehlen-style anti-establishment Republican, even if it meant losing his role in the campaign. As I write this, Stewart’s latest Facebook post this afternoon reads, “Tons of interviews today on behalf of Mr. Trump. Then, I went to start a rebellion against GOP establishment pukes who betrayed Trump.” Build that brand!
Meanwhile, here’s what Reince is telling RNC members on a conference call this afternoon:
Reince on RNC members-only call, per source: "nothing has changed in regard with our relationship with the campaign."
— Alex Isenstadt (@politicoalex) October 10, 2016
He and Trump, and thus nominally the two wings of the party, are still united. Whether that lasts if and when more tapes drop, we’ll see.
As for the protest, you’ll see below that it was mostly tame. Mostly.
— Julee Jonez (@iamjuleejonez) October 10, 2016
Exit question: How many more un-endorsements by Republicans will it take before Trump says “to hell with the RNC” and begins campaigning against the party anyway? It can’t be much longer before he moves from suggesting the election is rigged to “predicting” riots if he loses.