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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Trump campaign soap opera only takes heat off The Donald

It goes without saying Donald Trump has run an unorthodox campaign in 2016. Literally from the beginning, Trump eschewed the “rules” of politics, instead stamping his own brand of Trump personality onto everything he did. From his fondness for huge self-adoring rallies, to his semi-addictive employment of Twitter to convey his moment-by-moment thoughts and use of “colorful” language on the stump, Trump’s done it his own way.

The lack of deference Trump’s shown for the way things are usually done extended to his campaign operation as well. Even before he announced his run, The Donald hired hot-tempered Corey Lewandowski as his campaign manager, a move that’s drawn criticism from many circles because of Lewandowski’s lack of Corey Lewandowskiexperience in running presidential level campaigns, not to mention his dearth of people skills and his penchant for attracting trouble.

As everyone knows by now, Lewandowski has drawn more than his share of negative media coverage for his various misdeeds on the campaign trail, even nearly being charged with battery after he yanked reporter Michelle Fields by the arm after a Trump victory press conference in March.

Lewandowski also took a lot of heat for the poor showing of the Trump delegate strategy in the early stages.

Perhaps as an answer to the critics, Trump brought in consummate Washington insider Paul Manafort a few months ago to oversee parts of the operation, but kept Lewandowski on as a loyal surrogate.

There’s been tension between Lewandowski and Manafort ever since – and apparently, it’s boiling over.

Kenneth P. Vogel and Ben Shreckinger of Politico report, “The internal struggle for control of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is getting personal, with allies of feuding campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and chairman Paul Manafort increasingly turning to shadowy tactics to try to sully their rivals.

“The battle, which was already toxic even by the standards of notoriously vicious internecine presidential campaign spats, escalated last week, even as Trump moved to clarify the official hierarchy atop his campaign by creating a new position — campaign chairman and chief strategist — for Manafort.”

Of course the campaign itself says the reports of internal discord are overblown, but it’s no secret that many of the political pros associated with Trump aren’t big fans of Lewandowski.

(Note: Trump fired a key member of the campaign late Wednesday, Rick Wiley. According to Harper Neidig of The Hill, “Rick Wiley, Scott Walker’s former campaign manager, was hired in April to be national political director by another recent addition to the Trump campaign, convention manger Paul Manafort.”)

Observers say the soap opera quality of the fight between Lewandowski’s and Manafort’s factions could end up damaging Trump’s candidacy. But if anything, it just serves to take attention away from some of Trump’s own personal bugaboos that are probably much more newsworthy.

The more the media talks about Lewandowski, the less they’re slinging mud on Trump himself.

Manafort apparently wants Trump to act more presidential. Lewandowski wants to let Trump be Trump. Here’s thinking The Donald himself enjoys the competing interests from within his own campaign. If they all don’t like each other they’ll be less inclined to challenge him on the things he wants to do.

And we all know Trump insists on being the head man in charge.

Trump moves into the realm of professional ground game operations

Throughout the Republican primary season, the media produced with a combination of curiosity and awe a plethora of reports concerning the technical savvy and enthusiasm of Ted Cruz’s “ground game.”

These stories detailed the living conditions of Ted’s volunteer force at Iowa’s “Camp Cruz” as well as the sophisticated nature of data collection the Cruz campaign used to micro-target promising voters in early states.

We also heard plenty about how Marco Rubio was deploying more of a traditional campaign approach centered on media ads. Then there were accounts of Jeb Bush’s massive Super PAC strategies in New Hampshire, especially, designed to knock down his fellow establishment candidates’ popularity.

And beyond all of this, there was Donald Trump. Time and again we saw the enthusiasm of his fans at massive rallies, but virtually no ground game presence whatsoever. Reporters wondered aloud whether his minions would actually turn out to vote on Primary Day.

As Trump prepares to accept the Republican nomination in Cleveland in July, we all know how well his strategy worked. Trump bet big on his persona and star power to fire up his supporters – and he prevailed handsomely. A willing media helped him, of course, but no one can say Trump didn’t have a big hand in his own success.

But now that he’s going to be the GOP nominee, Trump’s lack of emphasis on groundwork in the states is becoming evident. For that reason, the RNC is moving in to help.

David M. Drucker of the Washington Examiner writes, “In concert with the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee is holding a call to arms in 11 battleground states for volunteers committed to electing the New York businessman the next president…

“In the battleground states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin — plus California, New York and Utah, RNC team leaders will spend the day (June 11, the ‘national day of action’) teaching recruits campaign skills like voter registration and pitching voters at their front doors and on the phone. Then, these new volunteers will head out into the field to practice what they've learned.”

According to Drucker, the RNC is using Trump’s own campaign email list to contact his supporters about the effort – and the response thus far has been impressive. I don’t think there’s going to be any shortage of volunteers for the gathering Trump army. If you doubt, just look at his record primary vote totals for evidence.

Trump’s unorthodox populist campaign survived on the type of anger driving the American grassroots who have been stepped on, ignored and betrayed by the Washington establishment of both parties since the days of Ronald Reagan. A similar fervor is seen on the Democrat side with Bernie Sanders, though his people appear to be much younger. You know, college kids who’ve never had a job and are upset because they’re not getting a free education like Bernie promises to provide for them.

In contrast, demographically speaking, Trump’s followers are older, filled with life’s experience and memories of the way America was before big government dominated virtually every aspect of our lives, including which public restrooms to use.

Leftist critics would say Trump’s people are all angry white males, but that’s not necessarily the case.

There will be plenty of women involved with the Republican campaign to elect Trump, though the polls certainly show the existence of a gender gap. But that may not be as big of a concern as most pundits would predict.

Political guru Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics writes, “One of the more prominent bits of conventional wisdom this cycle is that Hillary Clinton’s advantage among women will open a huge gender gap, and that this will help her win the presidency. I don’t doubt that there will be a larger gender gap, perhaps even a historically large one. I’m less convinced that it will work to Clinton’s benefit.

“There are two reasons for this. First, my sense is that many analysts overrate the pull identity politics has among women... [and] second, The gender gap is an inherent, long-standing force in American politics. It does not, however, always work to Democrats’ advantage.”

Trende points out that two of the years where the gender gap was the largest – 2012 and 2014 – the Democrats suffered huge losses across the country (not in the president’s race, obviously).

So Trump’s male majority army will be trained by the Republican Party and soon will be marching all across the country. With a professional campaign operation to go along with his already considerable public relations talents, Trump will give Hillary Clinton all she can handle.

#NeverTrumper non-believers still pining for Mitt Romney

I’ve got to hand it to the #NeverTrump people; they never give up.

Even as the filing deadlines in numerous states have either passed or are rapidly approaching, many of the true never-believers are still calling for a third-party savior. And sadly enough, Mitt Romney is at the tip of many of their tongues.

David French of National Review writes, “There is just one hope — however slim — of avoiding this national disaster: America needs a third option. And at this point, Mitt Romney is the only man who combines the integrity, financial resources, name recognition, and broad public support to make a realistic independent run at the presidency. He’s conservative, he’s got an enviable record in business and government, and he’s demonstrated a unique capacity for turning around failing enterprises. Oh, and there’s one other thing: Romney has been proven right.”

In his piece, French runs through the usual arguments against Trump and Clinton. The predictions of disaster with Clinton are entirely understandable. The ones with Trump are in the “could happen” category, but it really depends on whether The Donald will turn out as bad as the #NeverTrumpers swear he will be or if he’ll end up more like what he’s promised to be during the campaign.

Trump is at worst a late convert to the conservative cause. He’s got several more months’ worth of explaining to do in terms of laying out the specifics of policy and personnel for his administration, but as the only real alternative to Hillary Clinton at this point, he merits a look to see if he’ll keep his word.

Let’s not forget millions of voters have already made their judgment. Many of us would have preferred Ted Cruz, but he didn’t win.

Sorry, #NeverTrumpers.

French admits he knows Romney personally, so we can see where he’s coming from. But Mitt has repeatedly said he isn’t running. It’s late in the game and there’s no indication Romney even could run at this point (again, the filing deadlines).

His only chance would then be to wage a national write-in campaign. But there’s no evidence Mitt Romney would have a ghost of a chance succeeding in that scenario. Show me a poll, #NeverTrumpers.

Make me a believer in your non-believer crusade. Then, at least, maybe we can move from the fantasy world into the realm of the possible.

Crooked Hillary’s email scandal about to blow up – once again.

Finally today, everyone who’s been paying attention to Bill and Hillary Clinton over the years knows they’re about as compliant with the law as Barack Obama, so the news that Hillary ran afoul of legal practices with her email server should come as no surprise.

An internal watchdog (and Obama appointee) apparently agrees.

Julian Hattem of The Hill reports, “By exclusively using a personal email address routed through a private server, Clinton circumvented policies designed to follow federal records laws and might have jeopardized official secrets, the [State] department’s Office of the Inspector General said in a report obtained by The Hill ahead of its official publication on Thursday.”

Wow. Maybe now even Bernie Sanders will want to start talking about Hillary’s “damn emails” again. If your own people admit publicly that you’ve abused your power and endangered the country in the process, that’s a bad thing.

Will it affect the campaign? Hard to tell. But we know Donald Trump will have something concrete to pin on Clinton now.

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post writes, “This is a bad day for Clinton's presidential campaign. Period. For a candidate already struggling to overcome a perception that she is neither honest nor trustworthy, the IG report makes that task significantly harder. No one will come out of this news cycle — with the exception of the hardest of the hard-core Clinton people — believing she is a better bet for the presidency on May 25 than she was on May 23.

“Clinton remains blessed that Republicans are on the verge of nominating Donald Trump, a candidate whose numbers on honesty, trustworthiness and even readiness to lead are worse — and in some cases, far worse — than hers. But Trump's task of casting her as ‘Crooked Hillary’ just got easier.”

I would argue the task of showing Hillary is “crooked” was always pretty easy. But her staunch apologists and supporters don’t care about what she does – or did.

She’s a woman; Donald Trump has said offensive things about women. That’s good enough for them.

It’s conceivable this revelation could give Sanders a boost in the remaining Democrat primaries, though. If Hillary somehow tanks at this point, it will throw the Democrats for a huge loop.

Somewhere in New York, Donald Trump must be grinning widely.

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