Ansvarig för den informationsinhämtning, kartläggning och planläggning som krävdes var, enligt Sherman, Trump själv.
As much as his campaign appears off the cuff, Trump diligently laid the groundwork for his 2016 run over the course of several years, cultivating relationships with powerful allies in the conservative firmament and in the media, inviting them to private meetings at Trump Tower and golf outings in Florida, all the while collecting intelligence that he has deployed to devastating effect.
As early as 1987, Trump talked publicly about his desire to run for president. He toyed with mounting a campaign in 2000 on the Reform Party ticket, and again in 2012 as a Republican (this was at the height of his Obama birtherism). Two years later, Trump briefly explored running for governor of New York as a springboard to the White House. “I have much bigger plans in mind — stay tuned,” he tweeted in March 2014.
Trump taped another season of The Apprentice that year, but he kept a political organization intact. His team at the time consisted of three advisers: Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, and Sam Nunberg. Stone is a veteran operative, known for his gleeful use of dirty tricks and for ending Eliot Spitzer’s political career by leaking his patronage of prostitutes to the FBI. Cohen is Trump’s longtime in-house attorney. And Nunberg is a lawyer wired into right-wing politics who has long looked up to “Mr. Trump,” as he calls him. “I first met him at WrestleMania when I was like 5 years old,” Nunberg told me.
Throughout 2014, the three fed Trump strategy memos and political intelligence. “I listened to thousands of hours of talk radio, and he was getting reports from me,” Nunberg recalled. What those reports said was that the GOP base was frothing over a handful of issues including immigration, Obamacare, and Common Core. While Jeb Bush talked about crossing the border as an “act of love,” Trump was thinking about how high to build his wall. “We either have borders or we don’t,” Trump told the faithful who flocked to the annual CPAC conference in 2014.
Meanwhile, Trump used his wealth as a strategic tool to gather his own intelligence. When Citizens United president David Bossie or GOP chairman Reince Priebus called Trump for contributions, Trump used the conversations as opportunities to talk about 2016. “Reince called Trump thinking they were talking about donations, but Trump was asking him hard questions,” recalled Nunberg. From his conversations with Priebus, Trump learned that the 2016 field was likely to be crowded. “We knew it was going to be like a parliamentary election,” Nunberg said.
Which is how Trump’s scorched-earth strategy coalesced. To break out of the pack, he made what appears to be a deliberate decision to be provocative, even outrageous. “If I were totally presidential, I’d be one of the many people who are already out of the race,” Trump told me. And so, Trump openly stoked racial tensions and appealed to the latent misogyny of a base that thinks of Hillary as the world’s most horrible ballbuster.
One way in which Trump’s campaign is like others is that its advisers have jousted for primacy. Over the summer, Lewandowski became embroiled in a battle for control with Stone, Nunberg, and Cohen. The principal fault line was over Stone and Nunberg’s belief that Trump needed to invest money into building a real campaign infrastructure and Lewandowski’s contention that their current approach was working fine.
Having won the power struggle with Nunberg and Stone, Lewandowski focused on letting “Trump be Trump,” which is what Trump wanted too. There would be no expensive television ad campaigns, no bus tours or earnest meet-and-greets at greasy spoons. Instead, the cornerstones of Trump’s strategy are stadium rallies and his ubiquitous presence on television and social media. “Mr. Trump is the star,” Hicks said.
Pundits have scoffed at this. Trump has no “ground game,” they say. His refusal to spend money on television ads spells disaster. But from the beginning, Trump knew he was onto something. “I remember I had one event in New Hampshire right next to Bush,” Trump told me. “I had 4,500 people, many people standing outside in the cold. Bush had 67 people! Right next door! And I said, ‘Why is he going to win?’ ”
The small scale and near-constant proximity mean they can respond to events quickly. In February, when the pope suggested Trump might not be a Christian owing to his plan to build a wall along the border, the campaign struck back within minutes. “If and when the Vatican is attacked by isis, which as everyone knows is isis’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president,” his statement said. Lewandowski recalled how it happened: “We found out about it as Mr. Trump was giving a speech on Kiawah Island in South Carolina, and within three minutes or less, he provided the response to Hope.” (By contrast, Clinton’s tweets are vetted by layers of advisers. “It’s very controlled,” one said to me.)
But if speed is the advantage of the small campaign, insularity is its inherent disadvantage. By all accounts, Trump doesn’t seek much counsel beyond his staff and children.
Meanwhile, the Trump team has poured almost all of its efforts into producing rallies down to the most minute details. At a Christmas-themed one I attended in Cedar Rapids in December, eight perfectly symmetrical Christmas trees lined the stage. As Lewandowski told me, “It’s all about the visual.” He requires reporters to stay behind metal barricades and positions television cameras for the most dramatic shots. “We want to know, what does it look like when he walks out on the stage?” Lewandowski said. “Sometimes we’ll allow cameras up close, sometimes we’ll show Mr. Trump on the rope line.” And the networks, hungry for ratings, have played by these strict rules.
After the rallies, Trump makes sure his fans stay mobilized. Everyone who attends a rally has to register by email, and the campaign uses this list, which Lewandowski estimates is “in the millions at this point,” to turn out voters. Most campaigns spend a lot of money to acquire voter lists; Trump largely built his own. “If you look at what the Obama campaign achieved many years ago, they were successful at bringing new people in, and then communicating with those people. What we’re doing is not dissimilar,” Lewandowski explained.
Tidskriftsomslag: New York den 4-17 april 2016.