“Donald TrumpDonald TrumpKasich finds it hard to rule out 2020 Pelosi: Dems have 'walked the walk' but haven't 'talked the talk' Trump’s first 100 days are over — here’s what to expect in the next 100 MORE isn’t a traditional politician and we don’t need to run a traditional campaign.”
“TV ads don’t work.”
“He won the primary without spending any real money.”
“We don’t need you fancy consultants and your decades of experience, losers.”
Sound familiar? It should. You hear it every day from new Trump Establishment Republicans trying to defend themselves against the overwhelming evidence that Donald Trump’s “campaign” is off the rails. It’s an article of faith among Trump fans that he can ignore all the rules of political physics forever and will simply rise and rise no matter how many unforced errors he makes.
Yesterday, they collided with the realities of a general election, as first day of the RNC convention in Cleveland demonstrated how unready they are for the fight ahead. The day went off the rails with the clumsy, criminally stupid catfight with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, followed by suppression of the legitimate concerns of hundreds of Trump-skeptical conservative delegates who wanted a bare-bones opportunity to have their voices heard.
Get on board the Trump Train! pic.twitter.com/4oAnJnZe50— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) July 19, 2016
Trump’s hostile takeover of the Party was in full public view as the Vichy RNC refused to even consider their motion, with the now-familiar Manafort-themed Eastern European thug tactics and gloating on display.
Then came the speeches. The base-heavy lineup of speakers, including a white-hot barnburner from 1989-vintage Rudy Giuliani, stuck to the theme, but the fear-centric, the-end-is-near messages were played out to a sparsely filled hall and the networks cut away repeatedly during speakers.
The less we say about Scott Baio and Mike Flynn, the better, and pushing rising star Joni Ernst into near-midnight slot was another misstep.
Trump’s Fox-heavy audience ended up missing a vital moment of the evening. During Patricia Smith’s heartbreaking speech about her son’s death in the Benghazi terror attack, he couldn’t resist the siren-song of phoning in to Bill O’Reilly’s show. A real campaign would have realized this and stopped him from blowing an emotional moment tuned to his core audience.
The crown jewel of the night was supposed to be Melania Trump’s speech. Heavily hyped as an insight into the real Donald Trump, it was touted throughout the day by Trump-friendly media as a game-changer. It was to be the tent-pole of the Trump family’s reality TV debut, and instead turned in to a political dumpster fire as it was revealed that whole sections were lifted verbatim from Michelle ObamaMichelle ObamaHollywood, DC come together for First Amendment-themed VIP party Capitol File partygoers praise low-key start to correspondents’ dinner weekend USDA to ease school meal standards MORE’s 2008 Democratic National Convention Speech.
Instead of humanizing Trump’s image, it turned in to a process story, and almost 12 hours later they haven’t contained the fire.
Listen, if Michelle Obama stole Laura Bush's convention speeches the right would be ripshit livid for a month.— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) July 19, 2016
The lidless eye of social media almost instantly revealed the plagiarism (for there is no other term for this), and while this would have been a story in any case her earlier boast to Matt Lauer that “I wrote it...with as little help as possible” made it that much worse.
It took the campaign (which supposedly has hired a rapid-response team) hours to issue a terrible, confusing statement that was more grist for the story. This morning, Paul Manafort doubled-down, daring the media to call his bluff.
I've worked a number of convention speechwriting assignments. There was a process, vetting, legal, etc. Not any more, QED.— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) July 19, 2016
This didn’t happen in a vacuum. This is the culture of Trump. Every adviser to Trump realizes that kissing his ring is the key to survival.
The empirical facts of the world outside Trump’s bubble are to be ignored or dismissed. For all the talk from Team Reince that Trump is improving and pivoting and professionalizing the campaign, it’s patently obvious that he’s still making it up as he goes along.
Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonSamantha Bee roasts Trump at mock correspondents' dinner Dems seeing big increase in midterm House candidates When it comes to Israel, Trump’s first 100 days were one big fail MORE is a terrible, clunky and mistrusted candidate. She’s deeply unpopular. Against anyone other than Donald Trump, she’d likely be well behind in the polls. However, Hillary Clinton is raising money, spending it to communicate against Trump and doing the boring, low-glamour high-reward campaign tasks that make her the odds-on favorite in November. There’s nothing random or ad-hoc about her campaign. It’s grinding, dull and ruthless.
Trump supporters may think that doesn’t matter. They’re in for a painful shock.
Rick Wilson is a Republican ad-maker and communications strategist. His Twitter handle is @TheRickWilson
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