Politics

Letting ‘Trump Be Trump’ Means Fun Rallies, Not Boring State Conventions

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
Font Size:

Over at the Washington Examiner, Byron York has penned an interesting piece on “Where Trump Went Wrong.” There have been many mistakes along the way, but one very costly mistake strikes me as somewhat predictable. As York writes, after gaining early momentum, “The view from TrumpWorld was that there would be no second ballot, so all of that county convention stuff was unnecessary.”

Has anyone ever heard of a contingency plan? An insurance policy??

Trump’s decision to forgo this kind of operation might prove to be a fatal miscalculation, but also one that’s not terribly surprising. As I have noted over the years, there seems to be an inverse relationship on the Right between candidates who are exciting and those who are organized. (Note: In 2008, Barack Obama’s “No Drama” campaign was able to bridge this gap. For whatever reason, Republicans who are exciting seem to be more eccentric.)

[crscore]John McCain[/crscore]’s revolutionary 2000 “straight talk” campaign was fun and refreshing, but he ultimately lost to the more organized and disciplined Bush machine. Mitt Romney ran two highly competent, disciplined, and organized campaigns, yet he lacked charisma. It seems we can have chocolate or peanut butter, but we can’t have both.

Other candidates like Newt Gingrich have run spontaneous, fun, and revolutionary campaigns, but failed to put enough emphasis on the tedious work of organizing. Why would a brilliant ideas guy, policy wonk, and orator want to worry about boring nuts-and-bolts stuff? More recently, [crscore]Marco Rubio[/crscore]’s campaign (though not necessarily fun or spontaneous) excelled at messaging, while failing to do the more mundane blocking and tackling.

Donald Trump’s campaign is loose and fun and irreverent. The notion that you should “Let Trump Be Trump” works wonders when the goal is wholesale politics and earned media. But there are trade-offs. Would his campaign have been perceived as being  so loose and fun and irreverent if The Donald were obsessing over spreadsheets and delegate lists? Probably not.

Granted, campaigns have been known to hire people to do that kind of labor (and Trump recently has done just that), but the fun candidates who like to fly by the seat of their pants are less likely to prioritize such hires (or listen to such advice)—until they have to.

Let’s assume that Donald Trump had hired veteran operative and lobbyist Paul Manaford—and former RNC and Scott Walker operative Rick Wiley—at the beginning. Had he actually listened to him, Trump wouldn’t be facing the problems he’s facing now with delegate attrition. On the other hand, would a Trump campaign headed by veteran Republican insiders have blossomed? It’s debatable. Would they have Let Trump Be Trump?

The obvious point here is that there seems to be a Catch-22. And, for some reason, it seems to be a problem that disproportionately manifests on the GOP side of the aisle. I’m not sure why it seems like being exciting and organized are mutually exclusive for Republicans. It just is.