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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Donald Trump shows signs of expanding his Circle of Trust

At the beginning of last week when Donald Trump unceremoniously fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, there was much speculation from the media and #NeverTrumpers that this was surely a sign his campaign was in disarray and the end was likely near.

They reasoned Lewandowski had led the entire operation astray by failing to bring in the personnel necessary to conduct a credible presidential campaign for a major party nominee. They were partially right, as there was a Circle of Trustwell-reported behind the scenes power struggle that ultimately ended with Lewandowski’s ouster.

On the way out, Lewandowski himself said a lot of new hires were on the way. He was correct and it turns out one of them was a key player in Ted Cruz’s well-run campaign.

Anna Giaritelli of the Washington Examiner reports, “Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has hired the senior communications advisor to former candidate Ted Cruz to head the campaign's press shop.

“Jason Miller will join the New York businessman's team as senior advisor for communications, taking over the candidate's messaging and media relations.”

Giaritelli adds Miller’s hire may help wavering conservatives get onboard with Trump. That’s true, but I think the significance of bringing in a new face goes far beyond the mere suggestion of outreach to the disgruntled.

We all know Donald Trump has a reputation for keeping a very tight inner circle that includes his children and a select group of Trump insiders whom he knows will be loyal to him. But I think by allowing in one of Cruz’s top men, Trump is signaling a willingness to expand his “circle of trust,” so to speak.

The animosity between the candidates was well-known during the primaries, but the intensity of dislike was just as prevalent in their respective campaigns. I myself have heard of Cruz people who swore they’d never speak to friends again if they took jobs with Trump in any capacity.

I doubt Miller will be given such treatment by his former coworkers…let’s hope so, at least.

It also may provide a sign that Cruz himself is closer to a public pronouncement of support for Trump. As I’ve said a lot lately, it doesn’t do Cruz any good to remain on the sidelines or to actively oppose Trump. Simply put, Ted is much better off with Trump winning this year.

At any rate, if he’s delayed this long, Cruz will likely wait until the convention to reveal his plans. It’ll add to the drama in Cleveland…and if he decides to publicly forgive Trump, the nominee just might get a similar absolution from some more holdouts in the #NeverTrump movement.

For now, they’re focused on finding their White Knight.

Poll shows a majority would have preferred a different candidate…so did the vote totals

In what should be considered the shocker of the century, another new poll shows a majority of Republicans would prefer someone else to Donald Trump for the party’s nomination.

Nick Gass of Politico reports, “Less than half — 45 percent — of Republican voters say they are satisfied with Donald Trump as their party's presidential nominee, according to the latest results from an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Monday.

“Another 52 percent said they would have preferred someone else as the GOP standard bearer, while the levels of satisfaction are reversed among Democratic voters, 52 percent of which said they are satisfied with Hillary Clinton as their party's nominee in November.”

According to Gass, the NBC poll also showed that Republicans with less than a college degree were Trump’s strongest supporters, but ideologically speaking, moderates and conservatives were pretty much divided evenly between the satisfied and unsatisfied.

In other words, the party is split.

There’s nothing to see here, because the poll basically reflects the same percentage of voters who went for Trump in the primaries, where he won the most votes of any Republican in history yet did not capture a majority of the total. Therefore, more Republicans voted for other candidates than did for him. Again, we already knew that.

I myself would be counted in the poll’s “preferred another candidate” group, but that doesn’t mean I’m calling for overthrowing Trump now.

Trump’s vote percentage is not a big deal when this year’s large Republican field is taken into consideration. And, The Donald prevailed handsomely in the category where it really counts. Checking the delegate numbers, Trump holds about a thousand delegate lead over Ted Cruz going into next month’s convention.

Surveys like these provide fodder for the #NeverTrump forces to once again claim there’s a popular mandate for overturning Trump’s nomination at the convention. This simply isn’t so. In answering poll questions, people are simply voicing the fact they wanted someone else to win going back to a few months ago.

Even in 2012 when the Republican field wasn’t exactly stacked with good candidates, probably a healthy percentage would have preferred someone other than Mitt Romney. Due to the lack of real alternatives in 2008, Romney had almost become the de facto conservative choice against John McCain.

But that didn’t mean Mitt was the first choice of a lot of conservatives in 2012. Romney won because the establishment wanted him, he looked good in a suit and could deliver a speech.

Donald Trump may not command the undying favor of a majority of Republicans today as the scars from the primary season are still yet to fully heal. But after next month’s convention, when he is the official nominee and #NeverTrump’s fantasy longings for a “White Knight” candidate have finally been put to rest, pollsters will stop asking people about what they would have preferred and start focusing on the question, do you really want Hillary Clinton as president?

I can’t say for sure, but I think as we get closer to November people will stop complaining about what might have been and start focusing on what could be in the future. Hillary Clinton represents a status quo that isn’t real popular these days. Donald Trump may not be the most likable of all candidates, but he does represent something different.

As of now there’s a lot of “noise” out there about delegate revolts and people like George Will leaving the Republican Party. There are also daily reports of some establishment politician disavowing Trump and laughing off the notion of attending or speaking at the convention because they don’t want to appear to support him.

At the same time, the media pokes fun at Trump for wanting to do a distinctive type of program at this year’s convention. Let them laugh. The grassroots went for an “outsider” candidate who offers a refreshingly different perspective on government and political correctness in our culture.

And no one but the most politically motivated people tune into party conventions anymore. If Trump is able to inject a little entertainment value into this year’s Republican gathering, more will watch just for curiosity’s sake. New is good. Stale isn’t. Trump is new, at least on the political scene. Hillary is old…period. Voters will recognize it at some point.

Trump wasn’t the first choice of over half of us on the Republican side. But he’s going to be on the ballot opposite Hillary Clinton with an “R” next to his name. Therefore, he’s looking like a pretty attractive candidate to me. I’m just waiting for a poll to reflect those sentiments.

Polls don’t foretell doom; they merely tell Trump where he needs to improve

Don’t get me wrong, just because I say we shouldn’t panic or give in to #NeverTrump’s fantasies of dumping Trump through a delegate revolt doesn’t mean there isn’t cause for concern with the polling numbers.

There’s little doubt Trump is behind at this point and there’s no question he isn’t popular with certain ethnic groups and women voters. And for a man who loved citing polls every other sentence during the primaries, he’s keeping mum about them now that they’re not nearly as favorable to him.

Some even suggest he isn’t listening and learning from the polls.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner reports, “The polls tell Trump he is not building his base of voters. After the self-inflicted wounds of the Judge Curiel Trump University matter, and the failure to respond effectively to the Orlando shootings, the best the polls can tell Trump now is that he has not fallen as far as he might have…

“The polls, taken together, are telling Donald Trump something. They're telling him that what he is doing now is not working, that he has to convince voters that he is a plausible president, that he has to present a more coherent message and not obsess on things like a lawsuit against one of his companies or a particularly lovely Scottish golf course. The polls are telling Trump that it is long past time to be presidential. And finally, they're telling Trump there's still a chance — if he would only listen.”

I agree with York about the “presidential” part and I suspect so does new campaign manager Paul Manafort. Trump can still be Trump, but he just needs to stop talking about tangential things that people don’t care about and start pounding the matters where Americans are likely to perk up and listen, even if they don’t like him personally.

In political circles, I think that’s called message discipline.

When Trump delivers a speech reading from a teleprompter or taking audience questions at a town hall, he’s primarily focused on addressing topics people care about. All the other stuff is just extraneous matters that will get the nominee in trouble.

As an example, Trump’s first reaction to the Orlando massacre was to claim credit for correctly predicting terrorists would strike again after San Bernardino. Instead of taking a victory lap Trump should have been hammering the themes of national security and immigration, where he’s proven strongest.

Voters aren’t going to make up their minds on who to vote for based on Trump University or whether he owns a golf course in Scotland. But if Trump talks about why people are poor in the inner cities and how it’s directly related to certain government policies, they’ll be more likely to at least listen.

Part of the problem with being a famous celebrity is everyone knows Trump. When he speaks, many aren’t even hearing to his words – they’re seeing a guy who they either like or abhor. Eventually, if he stays on message, Americans will listen to what he’s saying rather than see the guy who used to fire people on The Apprentice.

#NeverTrump stopped paying attention long ago. So did most of the Democrats. But there is a way to reach those who are willing to listen and perhaps change their opinions. The message must become greater than the man.

Donald Trump loves the spotlight. But if he doesn’t let his message do the talking, his poll numbers may just remain right where they are – in the doldrums.

(Note: There is good news in the polling too, such as this story from The Hill showing Trump is competitive with Clinton in all ten major battleground states.)

Behind the scenes, Trump amps up data operation to compete with Crooked Hillary

Finally today, though paying attention to public opinion through polling is certainly important, there are signs the Trump campaign is maturing in other ways as well, most notably in the data field.

It’s no secret that Trump’s targeting operation was not nearly as sophisticated as some his rivals’ during the primaries, a deficit Trump was able to overcome with mostly just Republicans voting. But going up against the Democrat machine headed by Hillary Clinton brings a whole new level of need to the contest.

Kenneth P. Vogel and Darren Samuelsohn of Politico report, “Donald Trump has dismissed political data operations as ‘overrated,’ but his campaign is now bolstering its online fundraising and digital outreach by turning to GOP tech specialists who previously tried to stop him from winning the party’s nomination…

“GOP strategists familiar with the Trump team’s efforts pointed out that his campaign has been working for weeks to integrate its data operation with the RNC’s, and they suggested that the candidate may have been intentionally head-faking his critics with comments suggesting he doesn’t see the importance of data to his campaign.”

Of course Politico insists the change of heart is driven by Trump’s realizing he needs contributions rather than relying solely on self-funding. That could be true, but Trump also wants to win. He sees the polls and understands something needs to be done to bring all the tools onboard to maximize his effort against Hillary Clinton.

It’s been said that a solid data operation can make two or three points difference in a race. With Trump already behind in the polls, every vote counts.

Here’s thinking Trump the businessman will build a data operation worthy of the Trump name. The Donald would not want to lose and have people blaming him for a lack of attention to detail. It’s his legacy we’re talking about. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

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