The Trump campaign is sticking to a tried and true victory strategy for the 2020 election: letting Trump be Trump.
The campaign itself has a number of advantages it lacked in 2016: a bundling operation led by top Republican fundraisers who sat out the last election, Trump’s historically high approval rating with his own party, a well-established ground game, and better data.
However, despite enjoying a more sophisticated operation, senior communications officials with the Trump campaign told The Daily Caller that they don’t intend to try to dress up the president.
Instead, the communications team will serve in more of a supporting role as they allow the president to dictate his message to voters.
“What they did in 2016, and what we intend to do here, is let Trump be Trump,” Tim Murtaugh, the director of communications, said. “He’s the boss of this campaign.”
The Daily Caller spoke extensively with Murtaugh, Erin Perrine, the deputy communications director, and Kayleigh McEnany, the national press secretary, during a visit to the campaign office in Crystal City, Virginia.
The trio projected an air of optimism about the president’s chances in the 2020 election, brushing off the two dozen Democratic candidates as crazy socialists. Instead, they identified the media as their “biggest obstacle,” and reiterated the need for Trump to speak directly to voters through tweets and rallies.
“A lot of people think the rally is just a place where the president likes to get in front of a crowd and make a speech — well that’s true. But it’s a lot more than just that,” Murtaugh argued.
He explained, “We have data, first of all, that tells us that when voters hear directly from the president on issues that is not through the filter of an evening newscaster … they respond a lot stronger and more favorably.”
Trump has held over 60 rallies since his inauguration in January 2017, including 46 for the 2018 midterms. He’s held four rallies thus far in 2019, and plans to hold another on Monday in Pennsylvania, a prime battleground state.
“The president’s the ultimate messenger. We follow his lead,” Perrine said.
The president’s last rally in Panama City, Florida resulted in a typical situation: Trump said something not politically correct that the crowd loved but the media abhorred. (RELATED: Media Freaks Out Over Trump’s Response To Heckler Who Suggested Shooting Migrants)
“How do you stop these people?” Trump asked of migrants illegally entering the U.S. “You can’t.”
“Shoot ’em!” one member of the crowd yelled.
“That’s only in the panhandle can you get away with that statement,” Trump said to laughter. “Only in the panhandle.”
Journalists and left-wing advocacy groups tweeted angrily about the president’s joke, including ThinkProgress founder Judd Legum, who claimed Trump was “encouraging the crowd to shoot immigrants.”
The campaign didn’t back down from the moment. Instead, the campaign’s rapid response team took to Trump’s favorite social media platform to fight back against the media perception of the president’s comments.
Trump saying: “Don’t forget, we don’t let [border security agents] & we can’t let them use weapons, we can’t. Other countries do, but we can’t. I would never let them do that. But how do you stop these [caravans of migrants with a couple agents]? You can’t.” pic.twitter.com/x1VJvN46qp
— Matt Wolking (@MattWolking) May 9, 2019
The strategy mirrors that of the president himself: double down and never apologize. When journalists accused Trump of inciting violence by calling them the “enemy of the people,” for example, Trump merely insisted that he was only referring to “fake news” and continued to use the phrase.
They asked my daughter Ivanka whether or not the media is the enemy of the people. She correctly said no. It is the FAKE NEWS, which is a large percentage of the media, that is the enemy of the people!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 2, 2018
The campaign only sees opportunity in the president’s endless stream of tweets and his jabs at his opponents at his campaign rallies.
During a rally in late March, Trump railed against California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who has repeatedly claimed that he had evidence that Trump colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.
“Little pencil-neck Adam Schiff. He has the smallest, thinnest neck I’ve ever seen,” Trump said. “He is not a long ball hitter but I saw him today, ‘Well we don’t really know, there still could have been some Russia collusion.’ Sick, sick.”
The campaign capitalized on the new nickname by creating an official t-shirt depicting Schiff with his neck made out of an actual pencil. (RELATED: Trump Campaign Ignites Twitter Firestorm With ‘Pencil Neck Adam Schiff’ T-Shirt)
“What he wants to tweet, we’ll make a t-shirt out of it,” Perrine asserted.