Trump brings his campaign tactics to the White House

Trump brings his campaign tactics to the White House
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President Trump's first week in office looked a lot like Trump during the campaign: musing on Twitter, picking fights, making controversial claims and trashing the media. 

This time, though, the tweets are coming from inside the Oval Office. And Trump’s allies and advisers don’t expect him to change.

“He can’t afford to let it go. He’s got to be on the front lines of the food fight, because the climate is so tough,” said former Republican Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston, a Trump campaign surrogate. “It’s very clear that his opponents are still in election mode.” 


Presidents have traditionally tried to use the first weeks of a new administration to trade the action and rhetoric of campaigning for a more considered style of governance. 

But Kingston points to post-election “Not my president” protests, the recount commissioned by Jill Stein, the preoccupation with Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump retweets personal attacks on Clinton, Pelosi, Abrams Biden swipes at Trump: 'Presidency is about a lot more than tweeting from your golf cart' GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill MORE’s popular vote win, the ties to Russian hacking and the Women’s March last week as evidence that Trump can’t afford to shift away from his campaign-style tone.

“If I were advising the president, I’d say ‘Keep doing what you’re doing, because the losing left isn’t going to fade away.'"  

Barry Bennett, a former adviser to the Trump campaign, agreed. 

“If he switched into governing mode, he would start getting rolled — that's surrender mode. There's only one way to run this town and that’s by force.” 

Trump, a political neophyte, often fights with one eye on his last battle.

After a brutal GOP primary where Trump and his rivals traded personal attacks, many Republicans bristled when Trump brought his scorched-earth campaign style to the general election fight, rather than following the typical path of mid-summer moderation. 

Now that he’s in office, then, it’s not surprising that Trump remains fixed on his general election victory over Hillary Clinton. 

That campaign has helped inform many of his early victories.  

With executive actions ordering construction of his border wall and a withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Trump is looking to follow through on campaign pledges he made to the American people. 

But in other cases, Trump’s reluctance to move on from the campaign has opened him up for criticism, including from some Republicans.  

Starting on Monday, Trump reignited debate over his debunked claims of widespread voter fraud, arguing that he would have won the popular vote if not for millions of illegal votes — a claim he hasn’t offered any credible evidence for.

On Friday, Trump wrote a tweet claiming that his suspicions were inspired by a little-known group trumpeted by the conservative website InfoWars, which often publishes conspiracy theories. The group has refused to publish proof of its claims, and its leader said Friday that it would take months before the evidence he claims he has can be published.

While many Republicans support the general idea of strengthening voting laws, few are willing to side with Trump’s claims of millions of fraudulent votes.

Democrats have accused Trump of setting the stage for voter suppression, while Republican lawmakers have been reluctant to echo Trump. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate confirms Ratcliffe to be Trump's spy chief Abrams announces endorsements in 7 Senate races Schumer dubs GOP 'conspiracy caucus' amid Obama-era probes MORE (R-S.C.) went further, saying that Trump’s allegation “shakes confidence in our democracy.”

Trump is far from the first president to keep at least one foot on the campaign side. 

Former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe star of tomorrow: Temptation and a career in politics reporting Blair questions Trump approach to coronavirus pandemic How a global 'Manhattan Project' could end pandemics MORE faced repeated criticism from rivals who labeled him the “campaigner-in-chief.” He broke the record for most first-term fundraisers, according to the Washington Post.  

And Obama regularly traveled the country for rally-style events with a political subtext, including one on the border of Ohio and Kentucky in 2011 where he specifically called on then-House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerPelosi, Trump slide further into the muck The partisan divide on crisis aid Congress must continue to move online MORE (R-Ohio) and then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPence: Next coronavirus relief bill would need legal shield for businesses GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill State Department scrutiny threatens Pompeo's political ambitions MORE (R-Ky.) to help pass his jobs bill. 

Former President George W. Bush brought in longtime Republican campaign aide Karl Rove into the White House as a top strategist, where he’s credited with an attempt to build a permanent Republican majority.  

And former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBlair questions Trump approach to coronavirus pandemic Has Justice Department partisanship finally hit a wall?  Bill Clinton, James Patterson team up for another book, 'The President's Daughter' MORE had his campaign strategist James Carville watching his political strategy while in office.  

“It’s not clear to me he’s going to [switch modes], and it’s not really clear Obama did either,” said Republican strategist John Feehery, a former House leadership spokesman. 

“What’s fascinating to me is that presidents, starting since Clinton, never stop the permanent campaign.”

Trump’s administration has a similar setup, with the president surrounding himself with campaign allies such as Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Reince Priebus and Stephen Miller. 

With Trump in office for only one week, it would hardly be surprising to see Trump jump back into the campaign lifestyle he relished on the campaign trail and continued with “Thank You” rallies after his victory. Trump could turn his must-see event style toward 2018’s congressional race, taking on red-state Democrats or Republicans who buck his agenda.

Jeffrey Lord, a Trump surrogate and CNN contributor who served in the Reagan White House, told The Hill that “it takes a while to settle into presidential mode.” 

“Campaigns take a long time, and a lot of these people have been at it for a very long time,” Lord said. “It takes a little bit of getting used to the White House itself, particularly if you’re someone like Trump who hasn’t spent a lifetime in Washington, D.C.”  

Lord added that the “actual duties of the job slowly overtake you.” 

“Six months from now, he will have worked his way into this,” he said.  

Asked about why Trump insists on bringing up the voter fraud claim, Lord said he feels Democrats are using Clinton’s popular vote win “to delegitimize him." 

Democrats say that Trump’s campaign tactics have shown his true colors in the early days of his administration. 

“We’re seeing in Trump a politician who lacks the ability to unite our country and whose bruised ego has resulted in childish antics that belong more on reality TV than they do in the Oval Office,” said Adrienne Watson, the national press secretary for the Democratic National Committee. 

But Trump’s allies brush that aside, arguing that he’s just being the same man as president who voters chose on Election Day.