Campaign shakeups are more the rule than the exception for Donald Trump. “I’m the strategist,” he told Gabriel Sherman at New York Magazine back in April when Trump was barreling toward the GOP nomination.
The coffee klatch that makes up Trump’s inner circle consists of himself, his kids, and his in-laws. The others in the Trump orbit: Corey Lewandowski, Lewandowski’s former Citizens United boss David Bossie, media crossovers Roger Ailes and Stephen Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, and political warhorse Paul Manafort, seem to drift in and out of positions, but never really leave the “organization.”
In fact, management shakeups seem to be baked-in, part of the Trump campaign culture.
In the military, specialists pulled from various permanent units to form a temporary group for a specific purpose is called a “tiger team.” I was on one in the 90’s (a Site Activation Task Force, or SATAF). Trump’s entire campaign is really a tiger team.
But it’s not the kind of team designed for a political campaign. It’s a media show, spin control, keep Donald in the headlines operation. If this was the military, Trump’s unit would be the Dirty Dozen, complete with Telly Savalas as the insane woman-hating killer ready to blow the entire operation.
If you look at the timeline, you see how changes at the “top” (if there really is a top to speak of) of Trump’s campaign follow sort of a rhythm. From June 2015 through the end of March 2016, Trump stuck with Corey Lewandowski, who was more of a body man than a campaign manager. Only when it became likely that Trump could be the nominee did Paul Manafort come on board to wrangle delegates and appease the GOP powers-that-be (read: Reince Priebus).
After standing behind Lewandowski out of loyalty, about a month before the GOP convention, Trump fired him. It was said to be due to complaints from the rank-and-file (such as there is one) and from Trump’s true decision-makers: his kids. But Lewandowski never truly left. He picked up a lucrative gig at CNN and from there continued to pump for his old boss. Now he’s listening in on campaign conference calls and offering advice–but he’s not with the boss 24/7 like before.
After the convention, Paul Manafort was no longer an asset, as he was vulnerable to Clinton attacks on his Russian connections. So Roger Ailes–after being booted from Fox News in a sexual harassment scandal–was brought on as a formal advisor (he had been an informal advisor for months). Stephen Bannon, chairman of pro-Trump Breitbart News, was hired as campaign chair, leaving Manafort no role, and Manafort resigned on August 19. On the same day, pollster Kellyanne Conway, who came on board in early July, was elevated to campaign manager (Lewandowski’s old title).
Confusing? It’s supposed to be.
Then on September 1, David Bossie, who originally recommended Lewandowski, joined as deputy campaign manager. That brings us to today.
Various media reports are starting to emerge that after Monday’s debate “disaster,” that Trump’s kids are ready to play another round of campaign roulette.
Not everything is “very happy” according to Tur’s sources.
This seems to have struck a nerve in the media-obsessed world of Trump.
Words like “fabricated lie”–as opposed to repeated lie, or true lie perhaps?–generally surface when the report in question is closer to the truth than Trump and his family would like.
With Trump’s businesses and brand reportedly suffering due to his negatives, another shake-up is probably inevitable. Once daddy Trump gets in his mind that things are rather stable, or stagnant, his compulsion to create news kicks in.
Since the pair Conway/Bossie seems to be in favor, look for them to survive the next purge. Ailes and Bannon may find themselves with a pink slip, however. Bannon encourages the more inflammatory side of Trump that plays great to his base, but repels swing voters. The next debate is Sunday, October 9. Somewhere between today and then, look for another Trump management musical chair session.
The campaign strategist-in-chief does not suffer being out of the news cycle for long.