- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 21, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

That’s the question many conservative pundits and long-time politicos are wondering.

On the face of things, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign looks like a hot mess. It ended May with less than $1.3 million in the bank — putting Mr. Trump’s fundraising numbers behind the top 50 members in Congress — and about $40 million less than presidential rival Hillary Clinton.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump blamed GOP leaders for his lackluster fundraising and said he’d be willing to pay his own way to beat Mrs. Clinton come November. That’s going to be a tall order, given Mrs. Clinton is on track to raise more than $1 billion this election cycle.

And, even if Mr. Trump is going to fund his own campaign, he shouldn’t push aside other Republicans, or the promises he made to the Republican National Committee, to work on their behalf.

Last month, Mr. Trump agreed to a joint fundraising endeavor with the RNC to raise funds for both his own campaign and GOP members down ballot. At the time, he said he was “pleased” to have the partnership.



But a Politico story last week said either Mr. Trump was shirking from his fundraising duties, or he just wasn’t prioritizing them.

“While Trump had promised [RNC Chairman Reince] Priebus that he would call two dozen top GOP donors, when RNC chief of staff Katie Walsh recently presented Trump with a list of more than 20 donors, he called only three before stopping, according to two sources familiar with the situation. It’s unclear whether he resumed the donor calls later,” Politico reported.

Then there’s Mr. Trump’s infrastructure problems.

Mr. Trump’s team has been slow to build out its national, general election infrastructure. Reports say Mr. Trump has about 30 paid staff in the country, compared to Mrs. Clinton’s 700. He hasn’t maintained his primary structures in battleground states like Iowa and Ohio, unlike Mrs. Clinton, who never disbanded hers.

The Clinton campaign has reserved about $30 million in air-time in swing states to describe her story and to define Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump hasn’t bought any ads — matter of fact — he hasn’t aired a single advertisement since the Indiana primary on May 3.

Internally, Mr. Trump’s campaign also seems filled with strife.

Mr. Trump fired his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, on Monday — whose strategy it was to “let Mr. Trump be Mr. Trump,” by running a bare bones organization while dominating the daily headlines and free-earned media through Mr. Trump’s candid Twitter feed and massive rallies.

That strategy hasn’t worked out so well in the last three weeks, as Mr. Trump’s poll numbers have declined 6 points from a virtual tie with Mrs. Clinton. You can blamed the mainstream media for turning against Mr. Trump (which it undoubtedly has), but he’s also exacerbated the situation with many unforced errors.

Mr. Trump’s fight with a federal judge over Trump University and his taking credit for predicting the Orlando massacre were both petty issues that cast Mr. Trump in a negative light and said nothing to the American public about how Mr. Trump planned on making their lives great again — a message voters want to hear.

Mr. Trump is favored over Mrs. Clinton on the economy and in the arena of terrorism and national security, so he should highlight these issues. And he should start defining Mrs. Clinton for the crook she is — a nickname isn’t going to do it. Her history is rich with details.

Mr. Trump’s inability to stick to message may very well be his own discipline issues that cannot be remedied by any campaign manager. But Mr. Lewandowski seemed more like a yes-man than a seasoned campaign veteran. His strategy worked in the primary, but it was faltering in the general.

And make no mistake about it, the general election has started. Although Mr. Trump has squandered the last several weeks, there’s still time to right the ship. The GOP convention is about a month away. Relationships can be built, a fundraising operation can come together, and political hiring can be made.

I believe Mr. Trump is in this to win it. I believe, that because he’s not a politician, there were always going to be some growing pains within his campaign.

But now is the time to learn from them and move beyond — for the White House is at stake.

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