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Republicans question Trump's trip to Scotland

Republicans question Trump's trip to Scotland
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Donald TrumpDonald TrumpRomney blasts end of filibuster, expansion of SCOTUS McConnell, GOP slam Biden's executive order on SCOTUS US raises concerns about Iran's seriousness in nuclear talks MORE's three-day trip to Scotland is raising questions among Republicans over whether the presumptive GOP presidential nominee's time would be better spent campaigning instead of opening a new luxury resort overseas. 

Party members are concerned that Trump's Thursday through Saturday trip is taking away time he could be using to get back on track after sinking poll numbers, dismal May fundraising figures and questions about his campaign following the recent firing of his campaign manager. 

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“It’s a strategic mistake,” said Doug Heye, a former Republican National Committee (RNC) aide and GOP strategist. 

“This isn’t even his first trip to Scotland during this campaign — he would be better served to spend time in Ohio and in North Carolina and in Virginia, and the other states that will decide this election.” 

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSchumer kicks into reelection mode The Hill's Morning Report - Biden shifts on filibuster Biden allies eye two-step strategy on infrastructure MORE, the South Dakota Republican who leads the Senate Republican Conference, shared those concerns with Morning Consult, calling on Trump to “get back here and get on the campaign trail.” 

“This sounds like more of a trip to associate with his business interests,” Thune added. 

Trump’s campaign hurdles have prompted uneasiness among Republicans, raising the stakes for the next few weeks. 

He was criticized for his attacks on a Hispanic federal judge who is presiding over the case against Trump University, and his initial response to the June 12 Orlando mass shooting was panned as self-congratulatory. 

His poll numbers have slid to a 6-point gap in RealClearPolitics’s average. And he fired his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, on Monday, hours before revealing just $1.3 million in the bank — less money than many House candidates have for their campaigns. 

Making campaign trips overseas has long been the practice of presidential candidates looking to shore up their foreign policy credentials and change the narrative. 

GOP nominee Mitt Romney touched down in both Europe and Israel in 2012 in the hopes of proving he could serve as the nation’s chief diplomat, despite a lack of foreign policy experience. 

Then-Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaUS raises concerns about Iran's seriousness in nuclear talks Matt Stoller calls on Biden administration to keep McKinsey away from infrastructure Obamas describe meeting Prince Philip in statement mourning his death MORE made a similar trip in 2008, as did a handful of Trump’s primary opponents this cycle. 

All were filled with a healthy schedule of official meetings meant to show the candidate’s deftness on the international stage. 

But while President Obama arrived overseas to praise and throngs of supporters, Romney earned criticism for a string of gaffes, while former GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson raised eyebrows this cycle for praising a Syrian refugee camp as “really quite nice.” 

As it stands, Trump has no official plans outside of media availability — the trip is strictly business. 

He’ll fly to Scotland on Thursday and hold a press conference on Friday before a ribbon cutting and photo-op at his new golf course and resort on Scotland’s western coast.  

Trump’s campaign did not respond to questions about whether any events are planned to help build his foreign policy reputation. He had previously tweeted that he would visit Ireland, too, but his official travel plans make no reference to Ireland, whose prime minister has been a vocal critic of Trump. 

“If he were going overseas to do something to burnish his foreign policy credentials, meeting with some of the leaders in Europe who have been critical of him and taking other meetings, that’s one thing,” Heye said. 

“Going to a golf course in Scotland is another, and it’s the haphazard approach to this campaign that I think leaves so many scratching their heads,” he said. 

He added that Trump is also missing an opportunity to fundraise with Republican Americans living abroad, who are allowed to donate to campaigns.  

Republican strategist Ron Bonjean lamented that the shift in priorities won’t allow Trump to take advantage of any momentum gained from his Wednesday speech eviscerating presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPelosi planned on retiring until Trump won election: report Pence autobiography coming from Simon & Schuster Amanda Gorman makes the cover of Vogue MORE

He also worried that the candidate's absence could scare off Republicans and fundraisers who have been wary about supporting Trump. 

“After Trump’s speech going after Hillary Clinton, one could imagine him doing a series of rallies across the United States to pound that same speech home in battleground states,” he said.

“When Trump chooses to go to his golf resort in Scotland, it sends a message to the fundraising community as well as Republicans on the fence that he’s not making smart strategic decisions.” 

The trip comes at a historic time for the United Kingdom, and one that some Republicans believe Trump can still leverage even without any official meetings. 

He’ll touch down in Scotland on the day of the Brexit vote on whether Britain should exit the European Union. 

Weighing in on the issue, Trump told London's Sunday Times that he’d “be more inclined to leave, for a lot of reasons, like having a lot less bureaucracy” if he was a British citizen. 

But he softened that stance during an interview with Fox Business on Wednesday. “I don’t think anybody should listen to me because I haven’t really focused on it very much.”

Some Republicans believe that, even without any official meetings, just being there will give Trump additional credibility when he likely addresses the issue during his press conference Friday.  

“Traveling to Britain allows the Trump campaign to portray foreign policy chops while playing to his domestic base around the vote to leave the European Union,” Vincent Harris, a Republican strategist who worked on Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - World mourns the death of Prince Philip The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings Trump faces test of power with early endorsements MORE’s presidential bid and also advises international political clients, said by email. 

“An average voter will just see that he's in Britain and give credit to foreign policy chops. Elites and high-information voters will look for who he met with, but to his base and working class voters, this is a positive trip." 

Regardless of how Trump handles Brexit, leaving the campaign trail at this time might be a move that would hurt conventional candidates but might not hurt Trump, said Ambassador Jim Nicholson, who served as RNC chairman during George W. Bush’s first presidential bid.  

“During my chairmanship, I always said to all candidates, including Gov. Bush, ‘There is no substitute for hard work and you never get a day back in a campaign,’ ” he said. 

“But those are conventional notions that work for me and candidates I helped get elected. Trump is not fitting into this conventional mold and doing extraordinarily well.”