‘Competent Loyalists’: Insiders Detail Why Trump’s Campaign Is Firing On All Cylinders Like Never Before

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Reagan Reese White House Correspondent
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“Buttoned-up” and “conventional” are hardly ideas that come to mind when thinking about Donald Trump’s presidential campaigns, but observers across the political spectrum have struggled not to notice a different feel to Trump 2024.

The evolution has been stark. In 2016, lack of experience, leaks, firings and controversy battered an ahead-of-its-time campaign strategy that ultimately carried Trump over the goal line. Four years later, a Trump campaign under the cloud of a global pandemic proved too sluggish to tackle the myriad of new voting measures Biden’s machine managed to exploit to the fullest.

In and around the campaign, insiders are dissecting the 2024 operation. The transformation, they told the Daily Caller, boils down to personnel and messaging.

“He has put together in 2024, a group of competent loyalists, who are also, I think he’s thrown around the term ruthless killers, something along those lines around, which should make all of us very happy,” Ned Ryun, CEO of American Majority Action and a longtime Trump ally who served on the administration’s 1776 Commission, told the Daily Caller. 

From the start of the Republican presidential primary, Trump was the clear frontrunner to be the party’s nominee. Becoming the only candidate left in the race in March, the former president moved to team-up, once again, with the Republican National Committee (RNC). But this time, he replaced the leadership with his own people, installing his daughter-in-law Lara Trump as co-chair and a top senior adviser, Chris LaCivita, as the chief of staff.

“There is no daylight between the RNC and between the Trump campaign,” Danielle Alvarez, a spokesperson for both organizations, told the Caller. Alvarez pointed to the fact that LaCivita holds top positions in both the Trump campaign and the RNC as an example of the conjoined operation. (RELATED: Trump Campaign Announces Major Fundraising Haul 24 Hours After Verdict)

The Trump campaign didn’t mesh ideally with the RNC in 2016, insiders told the Daily Caller. There was drama, and leaks often ended up in the media.

“The communications teams in 2016, between the Trump campaign and the RNC, were at times not even speaking. They were in different rooms and were not working together at all. Reporters would come in from out of town to establish relations with the campaign and there was a real tug-of-war as to who would talk to those reporters,” a former senior Trump campaign official told the Caller. 

In 2016, the Trump campaign was small but lethal. Despite their eventual success, trouble brewed prior to Trump’s shocking defeat of Hillary Clinton.

About two weeks before the party convention where Trump would be affirmed as the nominee, the 2016 campaign moved to completely disband the RNC communications team in an effort to take full control, the former official told the Caller. Even at the convention, RNC leadership wasn’t fully bought into Trump’s bid for president.

“It was only right after the convention that Reince Priebus, who had been head of the RNC, that he met with Trump — the Monday after the convention, and Reince Priebus got the green for the first time to have the RNC really work together with Trump’s campaign,” the official told the Caller. 

“They didn’t ever want to communicate with each other. There was tension,” another source, granted anonymity to speak freely about the situation, told the Caller about 2020. “It was very weird that there had to become a staffer who was almost like a mediator, but I would say 100% it was almost like there were two different teams and they just really didn’t like each other but they knew that they needed to work together.” 

But of course, the 2020 campaign wasn’t normal in the slightest. Just months into 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, closing down businesses and forcing millions of Americans into their homes for weeks.

As the pandemic eased up and the 2020 election got closer, COVID-19 appeared to play more of a role in disrupting the campaign operations, a source with access to both the RNC and the Trump campaign told the Caller.

“During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, there was a situation where the Trump campaign was really working to get people back to being in-person and returning to normal,” the source told the Caller. “The RNC, however, was more concerned about following the COVID rules.”

“The RNC wanted to make sure temperatures were checked and that people were notified correctly and that masks were worn and the Trump team wasn’t as concerned with allowing COVID rules to hinder their campaign operation,” the source continued. 

The pandemic also disrupted the partnership between the RNC and the Trump campaign on the fundraising front, a former official told the Caller.

“The RNC did not play as big of a role as it should have — the RNC is very important to get not only fundraising, but also really monitoring ballot fraud across the country and early voting,” the former official said. The source added that because of the pandemic, the RNC could not adopt as much of a leadership role, and election integrity efforts were stunted. 

The 2024 RNC convention, Semafor reported, is the first convention the former president will have that is truly of his doing. The 2020 convention was stunted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2016 convention was rife with division and mishaps, the outlet reported.

The 2024 campaign doesn’t appear to be experiencing the same turbulence, and its merger with the RNC in their third time around could be part of the reason why.

“It’s streamlined the process where there’s no confusion over how this is supposed to work,” Ryun told the Daily Caller. “They’re simpatico, and they’ve demonstrated that through how they’ve basically unified key positions. I would say they’ve also made sure, and they’re making sure, that everybody inside the building is also on the same page with the Trump campaign, which is a huge thing that might have been lacking in the past.”

“Our conversations with Trump officials, allies and alumni reveal the off-the-rails public Trump has a more conventional, buttoned-up operation built around him. His advisers see this as a template for governing if he were to win,” Axios previously reported

The new synergy is paying off. Since dominating the Republican presidential primary, Trump has held a steady lead in polls against President Joe Biden both nationally and across key swing states. A New York Times/Siena College survey from May 13 shows Trump leading Biden in Nevada, Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by as much as 13 points.

On the fundraising front, the RNC had been facing a cash problem. They and the Trump campaign continued to get outraised by the Democratic National Committee and Biden’s campaign until April.

Though Biden’s team still has more cash on hand than Trump, the RNC and the Trump campaign outraised their opponents by nearly $25 million that month. It’s a figure that, alongside the polls, has reportedly caused top democrats to have “a pervasive sense of fear”.

One advantage for Trump, perhaps counterintuitively, has been that he had to work his way through a primary challenge in 2024. With a crowded field of Republican opponents, Trump had the opportunity to find a close-knit group of loyal staffers to help run his latest operation, insiders told the Caller.

“When you start small, you’re focused early on on making sure you get on the ballots, but then you win in Iowa, you move to New Hampshire, then you go to South Carolina, then you go to Super Tuesday and you scale. But you start with that very close-knit group and you build from there,” Marc Lotter, the director of strategic communications for the Trump-Pence 2020 campaign, told the Caller. 

“The 2020 campaign was a billion-dollar corporation. When I joined, we started really building in January of 2019 and built it out with 100 plus people and then it explodes to 500 to 800 to 1000 to the 1000s that you need by the time you hit November, but we started off big,” Lotter continued. 

Eight years after his first presidential bid, the 2024 campaign also appears to be more prepared to staff up a federal administration in the event of a 2024 victory. After winning the presidency in 2016, Trump and his team had to rush to put together a transition team that could vet and staff thousands of staffers, according to the Portland Press Herald. Before election day, previous presidential campaigns had hundreds working for their transition teams in preparation for a win, the outlet reported. At the time in 2016, the Trump campaign had just 70 people at hand.

But this campaign is already ahead of where they were in 2016. In April, Axios reported that the former president’s sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump have taken the lead in vetting potential staffers for the administration, grading their loyalty to the former president and their ideology. And long before Trump was the presumptive nominee, the Heritage Foundation launched Project 2025 with the mission of making the next Republican president “ready to govern in the most aggressive, ambitious, audacious way to destroy the Deep State and devolve power back to the individual Americans.”

As of December 2023, Project 2025 had collected at least 5,000 applications for the next administration.

Another challenging element of the Trump campaign is how the team has handled their boss being tied to court through a majority of April and May.

When Trump’s court case in Manhattan began on April 15, the former president was only allotted Wednesdays and weekends free. Since then, the former president has held just three rallies. Through the same time period in 2016, Trump conducted 28 rallies. (RELATED: Trump’s Most Iconic Campaign Tool Is Nowhere To Be Seen As He Languishes In NY Courtroom)

Instead of holding his famous rallies, Trump held frequent press conferences outside of the courthouse and visiting local areas around New York City. On his second day in court, the former president visited a bodega in Harlem where he was swarmed by supporters. Other days he met with construction workers and brought pizza to Manhattan firefighters.

Despite various hiccups in 2016 and 2020, there were strong elements to pull from, and those strengths have combined into an optimized 2024 campaign, insiders said.

“I think it’s a much smaller, leaner, professional campaign like 16 but also filled with more professional people who are very experienced and have a ton of experience, both with Trump but also with politics. I think it’s really kind of a merger between the 2016 and the 2020 campaign,” Lotter told the Caller. “It’s the best of both.”

The campaign recognizes they are running a “nontraditional” operation in 2024, Alvarez told the Caller. She stressed how in previous cycles, the “process” was the product being sold, but now both candidates now have records as president that make the 2024 campaign unique.

What it really comes down to, Alvarez said, is Trump himself.

“I wish I could tell you there’s some secret sauce that you don’t know about – the secret sauce is the boss,” she said.