Presidential races

5 takeaways from Trump’s pick of Breitbart exec as campaign CEO

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Donald Trump’s decision to make Breitbart News executive Steve Bannon his campaign CEO is being viewed as full-fledged rebuke of the Republican establishment and the mainstream media.

It comes as Trump has endured several difficult weeks and seen his standing in polls plummet.

{mosads}The GOP nominee needs to turn his campaign around, and the additions of Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, who will become campaign manager, are intended to strengthen Trump’s operation this fall.

The addition of the Breitbart executive is the more unusual move.

Here are five takeaways from Trump’s decision.

Trump wants to control the story

The real estate magnate is a voracious consumer of the news and heavily invested in coverage portraying him in a favorable light.

In recent weeks, Trump has boiled over with anger when it comes to the negative coverage of his campaign, culminating in a de facto declaration of war against the media in a prepared speech Tuesday night in Milwaukee.

By picking Bannon to lead his campaign, Trump is pairing himself with a conservative media mogul who has been his biggest supporter.

Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart has pumped Trump and his policies at every turn, while fiercely attacking any Republican, Democrat or member of the press that might question the GOP nominee. 

Trump’s desire to control the media narrative surrounding his campaign can also be seen in his decision to get counsel from former Fox News executive Roger Ailes, who helped turn the conservative media outlet into a juggernaut but was chased from the company only weeks ago amid allegations of sexual harassment.

Bannon and Ailes could help Trump keep a tighter grip on media coverage of his campaign in the short-term — and will likely seek to make much of the story about Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, a frequent target for Breitbart and Fox. 

At the same time, the decision is also provoking questions about whether Trump is thinking beyond the presidential race.

GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak and former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro have questioned whether Trump’s association with Bannon is a sign that he’s thinking about launching a conservative news empire after the election.

Trump is alone at the wheel

Trump’s latest shake-up makes it clear that no one but Trump is in charge of his campaign.

With Bannon as CEO, Conway as campaign manager and Paul Manafort carrying on as campaign chairman, Trump has broadened his team.

He will also seek counsel from his tight-knit family — especially power-couple Ivanka Trump and her husband, New York Observer owner Jared Kushner.

But Trump is clearly the one in charge.

Trump’s children pushed him to drop campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in favor of Manafort earlier this summer.

It is hard to believe that Manafort or Trump’s adult children, all of whom have pushed him to adopt a more measured tone, would be on board with the decision to make Bannon the campaign CEO.

There will be no pivot

Bannon’s hiring is a return to the rebellious origins that launched Trump from political gadfly to GOP nominee.

It likely dashes any lingering hopes from mainstream Republicans that the billionaire will morph into a more polished or traditional candidate.

Trump may continue to give policy speeches and use teleprompters, but Bannon’s hiring signals a return to Lewandowski’s “Let Trump Be Trump” ethos.

Republicans hope that the general electorate is in the same mood as the GOP primary electorate, which thrilled to Trump’s brash, unapologetically anti-PC, anti-establishment, populist message.

GOP lawmakers are nervous

Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill are confounded and angry that Trump has brought Bannon on.

The hiring could fray Trump’s already tenuous relationship with GOP leaders, and has put Republican lawmakers on high alert over the direction of the campaign.

Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart has mercilessly attacked Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and any conservative lawmaker or elected official who didn’t fall in line behind the news outlet’s narrow brand of conservatism.

Even before Bannon’s addition there was growing smoke around the possibility that the Republican National Committee was waiting for the moment it could cut ties with the nominee and direct resources to protecting majorities in the House and Senate.

The RNC, the Trump campaign and down-ballot Republicans all still need one another at this point in the race. But this latest move by Trump will further fuel speculation that a divorce is only a matter of time.

Get ready for more on immigration

Republicans have grown frustrated that the GOP nominee has at times veered off-message and missed opportunities to exploit Clinton’s weaknesses and missteps.

That’s something a media expert can help fix, and Bannon is uniquely suited for that job.

Breitbart had trained its focus on Trump’s pet issues long before he became the nominee.

Immigration in particular has been one of the cornerstones of the news outlet’s coverage dating back to the Gang of Eight.

Then, the website did its best to turn Florida Sen. Marco Rubio into conservative public Enemy No. 1 over his support for the bipartisan immigration deal.

And like Trump, Breitbart has covered the terrorism and law and order issues under the assumption that the mainstream media and liberals have been complicit in the nation’s decline by their failure to adequately address the dangers of radical Islam or support the police.

Bannon helped shape that coverage and Trump has bought wholesale into it, ensuring the campaign will look to make the election about national security.

Meanwhile, Conway — a big hire in her own right — has indicated she wants Trump to keep his focus on Clinton. Nothing would make Republicans happier.

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Marco Rubio Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan
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