- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 23, 2016

ANALYSIS:

Dick Cheney as vice president once told a top aide, “Don’t make it hard for me to be your friend.”

That is just what Donald Trump’s campaign has been doing: “making it hard for me and other Republicans I know to be the campaign’s friend, even though we have tried and tried,” a prestigious policy analyst confided on the eve of the final presidential debate last week.

Acutely aware that the drive for vengeance can be as basic as hunger in politics at the presidential election level, such influential but stymied Trump backers request anonymity.

“The Trump campaign asked me to be a surrogate but then never booked me on a single TV or radio show for the whole campaign,” a top Republican policy analyst with deep federal-level experience said privately. “I watched senior- and midlevel officials join, then mysteriously leave the campaign, and I tried to get through but never heard from any of them.”

Another frustrated Trump supporter with a broad following in conservative intellectual circles said he “tried to bring several major donors from multiple states together with the campaign for events the donors suggested.”

It never happened. Why? “Because Trump’s campaign structure is impenetrable,” the supporter said.

These Republicans describe disorganization and sheer incompetence within the Trump campaign and blame the candidate for not bringing structural order and sense.

They wonder aloud that if a candidate can’t bring functionality and competence to his own campaign organization, which numbers a few thousand employees and volunteers, how can he manage a nation with 330 million people and an $18 trillion economy.

They go out of their way to exclude from criticism Kellyanne Conway, the latest Trump campaign manager. They say she has brought policy sense and discipline where there was none. Mrs. Conway readily acknowledges that she never managed a 50-state campaign, but then neither has her boss, media executive Steve Bannon, who is the campaign’s CEO.

Mrs. Conway has successfully run her own polling company and knows how to hire and assign people with specific talents to make an organization hum, as has Mr. Bannon.

What’s missing, knowledgeable observers say, is an overall strategy. By the time Mrs. Conway and Mr. Bannon came aboard in mid-August, they say, the structure was irremediably broken — carved up into fiefdoms. Friends of friends of Mr. Trump inside the campaign were making deals and commitments with outsiders but not alerting — or seeking permission from — anyone else inside the organization.

“Instead of a coherent strategy, the campaign continued to convey conflicting aims, goals and tactics that point in different directions simultaneously,” said an experienced Republican operative associated with the campaign.

Jason Miller, a senior Trump campaign communications adviser, defended the campaign’s method of operation.

“Taking on the establishment has proven to ruffle the feathers of insiders from both parties, clearly,” Mr. Miller said. “But our campaign has always been about the grass-roots movement frustrated with the general election failures of 2008 and 2012, so comparing us against their organizations is a false measurement.”

Mr. Miller, who was Sen. Ted Cruz’s senior communications adviser for the Texan’s Republican presidential campaign this year, added, “We believe that the choice here is simple.

“In the closing weeks of this campaign, we will continue to offer Mr. Trump as the change agent needed to unite the Republican Party and drain the swamp in Washington. And if you’re not on board with helping to elect Mr. Trump, you’re helping to elect Hillary Clinton,” he said.

Ultimately, the buck stops where several billion other bucks are claimed to have taken up residence: with the candidate himself.

From the start, he said his success at creating and running a multibillion-dollar international business made him uniquely capable of overseeing the $18 trillion U.S. economy. But recent history isn’t on his side. Top managers of businesses such as Ross Perot, Mitt Romney and Carly Fiorina failed in their presidential quests.

Another merit of Mr. Trump’s was his often-repeated assertion that he would dig into his own miles-deep pockets for the hundreds of millions of dollars to run a successful primary and general election drive and not take donations from wealthy special interests with their own agendas.

“He has put tens of millions of dollars in this campaign, raised far less than Clinton’s campaign, but he has put some of his money where his mouth is,” said the Center for Public Integrity’s Michael Beckel.

Noting that Mr. Trump has put $54 million of his own money into his campaign effort, Mr. Beckel called that “a very sizable sum. Most candidates don’t fund their campaigns to that tune.” Still, that is $46 million short of the $100 million he repeatedly said he would spend and hundreds of millions less than the $1 billion of his own money he told reporters in mid-August.

“If you are trying to compare what he has achieved with Hillary Clinton’s fundraising and spending, you could say so far he got more bang for his bucks, more earned media,” Mr. Beckel said.

Self-funding is in the eye of the beholder, and not all beholders interpret what they see the same way.

Trump has claimed at various times to be almost totally funding his own campaign; that’s not true,” said Viveca Novak, editorial and communications director at the Center for Responsive Politics.

“In reality, as of the end of August, he’s put in $54 million of the $166 million he’s raised, or about a third. Clinton has raised far more, $373 million, and far more has been raised by the main outside spending groups supporting her than by those supporting Trump.”

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