John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


How Will the Trump Campaign Shakeup Shake Out?

Posted on August 18, 2016
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(This originally appeared in the website Political Storm)

Two fundamental problems dog Donald Trump’s campaign for the White House.

First, there is a real question as to whether he has the credibility to be president. He is an outsider’s outsider. He has no elective experience under his belt. He has run a spectacularly undisciplined campaign. He says almost anything that comes into his mind. And many of his policy proposals are nothing more than cleverly disguised sound-bites.

Second, he is getting killed in the latest polls among female voters, especially white, college-educated female voters. Mitt Romney won white women voters by 17 points. According to Fortune Magazine, “Romney drew support from 56 percent of white voters with college degrees, according to 2012 exit polls. Obama notched just 42 percent, but still cruised to a second term. A Washington Post-ABC News poll taken in June found Clinton leading Trump among college-educated whites 50 percent to 42 percent.”

Part of the reason for this gender gap is, of course, the historic nature of the Hillary Clinton campaign. But Trump has been his own worst enemy when it comes to appealing to female voters. His public comments about Megyn Kelley, his past conduct, and his brash style all have undermined his campaign with this essential voting bloc. As the Atlantic pointed out, “A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that women were more likely than men to say Trump doesn’t show enough respect toward people he disagrees with and to rate that as a major problem. Trump’s denigrating remarks directed at women, Muslims, immigrants, and Mexicans may be more unacceptable to female voters.”

Trump seems to recognize that his campaign is in trouble. Perhaps that’s why he announced that he was bringing in Stephen Bannon as his campaign chief executive and Kellyanne Conway as his campaign manager.

The Conway promotion makes complete sense. She is a messaging guru who specializes in polling and who will bring a female sensibility to the Trump campaign. Kellyanne has deep experience in Republican politics, is well-liked by many leaders inside the beltway, and is a veteran of several successful campaigns.

The Bannon hire, on the other hand, is a bit more of a mystery. No doubt he has talents, but, like the candidate himself, he has no actual campaign experience. While he has successfully branded Breitbart News as the organ for the disenfranchised conservative non-conformist, he has no real track-record of bringing credibility to any candidate. His latest foray was a disastrous effort to dislodge Speaker of the House Paul Ryan from his congressional seat, an effort that the voters of Wisconsin widely rejected.

Bannon’s expertise is peddling the kinds of conspiracy theories that have served to undermine the credibility of Mr. Trump. We can expect Mr. Trump to double down on many of these memes, like Hillary Clinton’s failing health, which originated from the Breitbart universe, or the examples from the book “Clinton Cash,” written by Bannon acolyte Peter Schweizer. But peddling conspiracy theories doesn’t win you the White House.

Worse, the hiring of Bannon will make it more difficult for the Republican Party to unify behind the Trump campaign. He has been at war with Republican congressional leaders for at least two years and this is not a case of letting bygones be bygones.Those leaders have long memories and they are most likely unimpressed by Mr. Trump’s latest hire.

Trump cannot win without a unified Republican Party. There simply are not enough disaffected white males in the country that make up enough votes for a majority party.

Donald Trump wants to do it his way. He doesn’t want to change or lose his own sense of authenticity. But political campaigns are necessarily a process of constant evolution. If a candidate does not evolve, does not improve, does not become a better version of him or herself, he or she simply won’t appeal to enough voters to win.

Mr. Trump did well by hiring Kellyanne Conway to be his campaign manager. If by hiring Steve Bannon, though, Trump wants to double down on being the Trump who stormed through the GOP primaries, he has made a huge strategic mistake. The general election voters want something different than we saw during the primary campaign. They want a more credible Donald Trump.

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