No one’s ever run a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign like Don­ald Trump

▶▶Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign will be a rad­i­cal po­lit­i­cal ex­per­i­ment ▶▶“This is one, sin­gu­lar per­son.▶...▶He is go­ing to drive the sys­tem”

Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia) - - CONTENTS - Joshua Green, with Kevin Cir­illi and Jen­nifer Ja­cobs

When Ted Cruz dropped out of the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial race on May 3, sur­ren­der­ing the nom­i­na­tion to Don­ald Trump, he did so from a stage in In­di­anapo­lis. Cruz had been in In­di­ana all week, em­ploy­ing ev­ery tac­tic in the po­lit­i­cal play­book to try to pull out a win. He criss­crossed the state, blan­keted it with ads, and used it as the back­drop for his an­nounce­ment that Carly Fio­r­ina would be his run­ning mate. In the end, Trump beat him by 16 points and did so by ig­nor­ing ev­ery rule in that play­book. The pre­sump­tive Repub­li­can nom­i­nee didn’t even bother to fuel up “Trump Force One”—his Boe­ing 757-200—to join the Hoosiers who had de­liv­ered him a land­slide. He chose in­stead to re­main in Man­hat­tan and give his vic­tory speech in the lobby of Trump Tower from a lectern that read: “VIC­TORY IN IN­DI­ANA, New York City.”

Trump has gone fur­ther than any­one imag­ined he could by flout­ing the con­ven­tions of na­tional pol­i­tics. Of­ten this was by choice. As he turns to Hil­lary Clin­ton and the $1 bil­lion cam­paign she’s ex­pected to run against him in the gen­eral elec­tion, it will also be by ne­ces­sity. Ac­cord­ing to mul­ti­ple peo­ple fa­mil­iar with Trump’s cam­paign, he has no plan in place to raise a com­pa­ra­ble sum—and doesn’t seem par­tic­u­larly in­clined to try, any­way. “Do I want to sell a cou­ple of build­ings and self-fund?” Trump mused on MSNBC the morn­ing af­ter his In­di­ana vic­tory. “I don’t know that I want to do that.” In­stead, Trump is poised to at­tempt some­thing rad­i­cal and never be­fore seen in a gen­eral elec­tion: a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign as a one-man show. Says his cam­paign man­ager, Corey Le­wandowski: “This cam­paign has proven we can achieve things that oth­ers can’t.”

The key to Trump’s suc­cess so far has been his abil­ity to dom­i­nate the news me­dia and shape po­lit­i­cal cov­er­age with­out hav­ing to rely on paid tele­vi­sion ads. “You’re talk­ing about a guy who’s got­ten $2 bil­lion in free me­dia,” says Newt Gin­grich, the for­mer House speaker, who ran for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion in 2012. To Gin­grich, Trump rep­re­sents an

im­por­tant “dis­con­ti­nu­ity” that could ren­der ob­so­lete many of the tra­di­tional party meth­ods of win­ning elec­tions. “He will de­fine more of this than we [Repub­li­cans] will,” Gin­grich says. “He’s been so cre­ative, and he does things so dif­fer­ently, and he will be so dom­i­nant, that we have to fig­ure out how we build around him. This is not a col­lec­tive where you sit down and have a plan­ning team. This is one, sin­gu­lar per­son who is the Steve Jobs of mod­ern pol­i­tics. And he is go­ing to drive the sys­tem.”

But Trump is also go­ing to en­counter a scale and in­ten­sity of at­tack from Clin­ton that he never ex­pe­ri­enced from his Repub­li­can pri­mary op­po­nents. “He’s about to walk into a bil­lion-dol­lar buzz saw,” says Stu­art Stevens, Mitt Rom­ney’s 2012 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign man­ager. Trump has made no se­cret of his phi­los­o­phy of how one should re­spond to po­lit­i­cal crit­i­cism. “Any­body who hits me, we’re go­ing to hit them 10 times harder,” he told Fox News in Novem­ber. Trump has al­ready tele­graphed the per­sonal at­tacks he’ll use against Clin­ton, crit­i­ciz­ing her paid Wall Street speeches and call­ing her an “en­abler” of her hus­band’s mar­i­tal in­fi­delity, charges that ad­vis­ers in both par­ties ex­pect will be greatly am­pli­fied in the gen­eral elec­tion cli­mate. “This is go­ing to be Alien vs. Preda­tor,” says one out­side ad­viser with whom Trump has shared his plans.

For Trump, who’s bro­ken with party or­tho­doxy on every­thing from trade to for­eign pol­icy to tax and en­ti­tle­ment re­form, launch­ing a fusil­lade of per­sonal at­tacks against Clin­ton may be his best shot at unit­ing a frac­tured Repub­li­can Party. “There’s a lot about Don­ald Trump that I don’t like, but I’ll vote for Trump over Hil­lary any day,” tweeted Ari Fleis­cher, the for­mer press sec­re­tary to Ge­orge W. Bush, whose ad­min­is­tra­tion Trump has crit­i­cized mer­ci­lessly.

Yet such a strat­egy, even if it man­ages to bring wa­ver­ing Repub­li­cans into the fold, won’t guar­an­tee Trump ac­cess to any­thing like the cam­paign war chests raised by re­cent GOP nom­i­nees. “Four years ago be­gin­ning in April,” says Stevens, “Mitt Rom­ney had to start rais­ing $100 mil­lion a month for the gen­eral elec­tion cam­paign.” While Trump may still be able to dom­i­nate the air­waves with­out that kind of money, he won’t be able to fund the nuts and bolts of a cam­paign in­fras­truc­ture— and could there­fore wind up at an even greater dis­ad­van­tage than polls show he faces in a matchup against Clin­ton. (A May 4 CNN/ORC poll showed Clin­ton beat­ing Trump by 13 points na­tion­ally, 54 per­cent to 41 per­cent.) “That money goes not just to the cam­paign,” says Stevens, “but to the as­sorted vic­tory com­mit­tees and all the empty party head­quar­ters wait­ing to be filled with phone banks. That costs money that has to be raised by the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Trump doesn’t have a fi­nance chair­man, and he’s been call­ing donors crooks—so why would any­body want to give him money?”

Trump will have the back­ing of the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee. He’ll also have at least rudi­men­tary sup­port from a pro-Trump su­per PAC. But the fi­nan­cial asym­me­try of a Clin­tonTrump race has be­gun to reg­is­ter with Repub­li­can of­fi­cials and strate­gists such as Stevens who don’t share Trump’s blithe con­fi­dence that he’ll be able to sell him­self to a gen­eral elec­torate in the same way he won over Repub­li­can pri­mary vot­ers. “If the guy is such a mar­ket­ing ge­nius, why is it he’s the most un­pop­u­lar po­lit­i­cal fig­ure in mod­ern Amer­i­can his­tory?” says Stevens.

Of course, Trump was also un­pop­u­lar at the out­set of the Repub­li­can pri­maries and still won. “Why would the con­sen­sus be that he can’t win?” asks Gin­grich. “Sure, he can win.” (Gin­grich may have a root­ing in­ter­est here: He’s been men­tioned as a pos­si­ble vice pres­i­dent to Trump. Given an in­vi­ta­tion to end the spec­u­la­tion by is­su­ing a Sher­manesque de­nial, he replies: “No­body from Ge­or­gia is­sues Sher­manesque state­ments. It goes against the state con­sti­tu­tion.”)

The cen­tral prob­lem with a me­di­adriven Trump cam­paign fu­eled by neg­a­tive at­tacks is that it will make it much harder—and likely im­pos­si­ble— for him to broaden his ap­peal. This dilemma is a re­minder that what­ever ge­nius dis­rupters may pos­sess, they of­ten fail. Rad­i­cal though it may be, Trump’s cam­paign will have to solve this prob­lem or end up go­ing the way of Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks: into obliv­ion.

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