Monday 24 July 2017

Why exodus of Republican leaders could be The Donald's death knell

Mr Trump for a long time relied on Hope Hicks, a glamorous 27-year-old who worked as a PR agent helping his daughter, Ivanka. Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Mr Trump for a long time relied on Hope Hicks, a glamorous 27-year-old who worked as a PR agent helping his daughter, Ivanka. Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Ruth Sherlock

Donald Trump enjoys railing against the Republican Party he represents.

Even as a slew of top Republican allies fled from his side this week, like rats from a sinking ship, following the revelation of a recording that showed him bragging about sexual assault, the presidential candidate only escalated his rhetoric.

On Twitter, he attacked the some three dozen defectors as "self-righteous hypocrites".

At rallies, he assured his supporters, that these politicians are not leaving because he is a sleazy, lady-groping casino boss; it's because he is speaking truth to power and standing up to "corrupt" Washington.

"I accept the mantle of this responsibility for all of us. I will never stop fighting against the Washington establishment that has betrayed each and every one of you," he told a crowd in Pennsylvania. "Our government has lost its virtue," he added, the irony apparently lost on him.

Pundits have spent the week screaming Mr Trump's downfall. But from a distance it might be difficult to understand why the denunciations of a few politicians have caused such drama in the American presidential race.

Mr Trump's supporters love him for his attacks on Washington. So why does it matter that he has been ditched by some of the men and women he had already slandered as fat cats?

The answer lies in a dirty little secret that Mr Trump seems not to want even to admit to himself. Even as he attacked the Republican party, the real estate mogul placed the fate of his election bid into its hands.

Most presidential campaigns, including Hillary Clinton's, establish their own infrastructure for turning out the vote. They hire thousands of employees and recruit even more volunteers to organise events and rally supporters. While the party they represent might help, it is the campaign which calls the shots.

But Donald Trump has outsourced the vast majority of this behemoth, and critical mission to - you guessed it - the Republican National Committee (RNC). In attacking them then, he has bitten the hand that feeds him.

The television show host with no past political experience barrelled his way to fame on a string of flamboyant appearances on prime-time television.

But he was backed by very little. Mrs Clinton hired a veritable army of communications officers to hone her message.

Mr Trump for a long time relied on Hope Hicks, a glamorous 27-year-old who had previously worked as a PR agent helping Mr Trump's daughter, Ivanka, with her fashion line.

So when Mr Trump became the improbable Republican nominee, his party stepped in to do the heavy lifting.

In May, the RNC created the Trump Victory Committee, an organisation that, as Reince Priebus, the party chairman, said was "committed to raising the additional resources that will make the difference in producing victory this November".

Important

The committee recruited volunteers in all 50 states, organised campaign events and fundraising dinners. It also coordinated direct mail.

With its extensive contact lists, this is an important way to reach Republican voters.

A recent study of Mr Trump's campaign operation by PBS NewsHour found that he has just 88 field offices in battleground states, compared to Mrs Clinton's 291. And so without RNC support, Mr Trump would almost certainly lose.

But this week, the RNC threatened to remove that. As the scandal broke, panicked congressmen, Mr Trump's lewd boasts still ringing in their ears, appealed to party bosses to use the funds to help their own election campaigns.

Voters will go to the ballot for them on the same day as they vote for Mr Trump. And if the Republican presidential candidate has just secured his own defeat, they argued, it was time for triage: sacrifice him to save us, they argued.

An internal email obtained by Politico this week showed that the call is being answered. An RNC staffer, Lauren Toomey, ordered a moratorium on the committee's "Victory" campaign.

"Please put a hold/stop on all mail projects right now. If something is in production or print, it needs to stop," she wrote, in an email that appeared under the subject line "Hold all projects".

This decision may only be temporary, but even so it could be disastrous. There are fewer than 30 days until election day, and already Mr Trump's turnout operation is woefully behind.

Every day Project Victory is on hold is a day in which thousands of votes may have been lost.

It is utterly typical that Mr Trump does not seem perturbed by the sabotage. A rational decision-maker would be working every second to get his party back on side. But that is not Mr Trump.

The showman has thrived on theatrics for more than 16 months of his presidential bid. Contradictions in his policy promises and flip-flops have been a nearly daily occurrence. Schizophrenia has been the name of the game.

And yet this time, it seems, he really has gone too far. (© Daily Telegraph London)

Irish Independent

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