Home LIFESTYLE Style News Trump’s Next Campaign May Be Even Crazier Than the First

Trump’s Next Campaign May Be Even Crazier Than the First

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While the G.O.P. braces for an electoral wipeout in November, the nominal head of the party, Donald Trump, appears more concerned with 2020. Winning re-election, of course, is easier said than done, especially for a president whose approval rating has never cracked 46 percent. And political lightning rarely strikes twice. Trump’s 2016 bid, after all, had two big things going for it, despite being a shambling jalopy of a campaign: a feckless group of establishment primary challengers in a year when the conservative base was ready to revolt, and a widely loathed Democratic opponent in Hillary Clinton. Trump’s schtick was new, and the moment was right: the former real-estate mogul decimated his primary opponents and eked out a victory over Clinton by running as an outsider, pissing on Washington’s sacred cows, and decrying the whole system as irredeemably corrupt. Two years later, however, Trump is the ultimate insider, even if he occasionally treats his presidency like he’s watching it on TV. His boldest promises—to repeal Obamacare and build a Great Wall on the U.S.-Mexico border—have come to naught. His Cabinet is rife with corruption scandals. And his gleaming, trillion-dollar infrastructure plan is gathering dust. Perhaps that is why the Trump 2020 campaign quietly jettisoned one of its initial re-election slogans, “Promises Made. Promises Kept,” in favor of the more straightforward “Keep America Great.”

Trump, of course, does not appear to have any doubts about his re-election. He famously filed to run in 2020 just hours after his inauguration, faster than any other incumbent president. He slashed corporate taxes and presides over a booming economy, both factors that have helped him and his affiliated super PACs raise over $73 million in 2017 alone. (Trump’s own campaign raised $43 million last year, four times what his predecessor Barack Obama raised during his first two years as president.) That stroke of extreme confidence has yielded other strategic benefits, too, giving him a massive head start against his future Democratic opponent (currently leading in the polls, according to hypothetical matchups) and allowing him to pay off his hefty legal fees. While Mike Pence handles the tedious particulars of helping to win midterm elections (and perhaps building support for his own future campaign), Trump fills his mostly empty schedule with monthly rallies to keep himself and his base energized. According to Axios, Trump aides are confident they can pick up two new states in 2020: Minnesota and Colorado.

Some elements of the Trump playbook will remain the same. Brad Parscale, Trump’s digital director in 2016, has returned to lead the 2020 effort as campaign manager, and plans to double down on the digital-first strategy that helped Trump circumvent traditional media. As Axios reports, Parscale is focused on building a formidable data operation with data for up to 40 million likely Trump voters, in hopes of bringing more apathetic Americans into the MAGA fold. He’s reportedly building project-management software to streamline the internal campaign apparatus, and devising various new tools to translate interest into action—for instance, those who attend a Trump rally will have to provide a phone number, which will shore up the campaign’s database. As Parscale put it, “We’re crushing it in prospecting.”

At the same time, Trump can’t rely on the same messaging twice—now that he is the Establishment and his party holds the majority in all houses of government, he’ll have to swivel his narrative to cast blame elsewhere. Per Parscale, it will be placed squarely on the shoulders of Democrats: “Democratic obstruction,” he implied, will be positioned as the cause of a handful of roadblocks, chief among them the Russia investigation, the push against a border wall, and resistance to repealing Obamacare. Parscale didn’t mention other various enemies Trump routinely blames for his shortcomings, among them leakers, Deep State actors, Hollywood liberals, the Clinton Foundation, and the “fake-news” media. But in the absence of other obvious punching bags, these elements will likely drift to the forefront of the president’s 2020 campaign.

As I reported earlier this month, Trump’s increasingly public temper tantrums over said enemies have done little to ding his support, even as they’ve driven him into deeper and deeper legal trouble. In fact, new public-approval polls indicate that Trump’s disapproval ratings are going down—a fact upon which the president seized with verve in a Tuesday tweet. Orchestrating a summit in North Korea and moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem have given Trump supporters something to gloat about, while they’ve largely tired of the White House scandal cycle. But without concerted messaging, Republicans will have to rely on Trump to steer the ship—something he indicated during a lunch with senators that he’s only too willing to do. With the ultimate unpredictable candidate at the helm, and no clear target ahead, Trump’s 2020 campaign could shape up to be even more toxic, hateful, and polarizing than the last.



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