GOP insiders: Trump’s overhaul won’t succeed – Politico
Donald Trump says this week’s dramatic campaign overhaul will put his presidential bid on the right path, but GOP leaders in key battleground states aren’t buying it.
Fewer than a third of Republican members of The POLITICO Caucus — a panel of activists, strategists and operatives in 11 key battleground states — believe Trump’s reshuffling will move the campaign in the right direction. Just as many, 31 percent, say the installation of Breitbart News executive Stephen Bannon as campaign CEO and pollster Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager, represent a turn for the worse.
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“There is no way to right this ship,” said one New Hampshire Republican — who, like all respondents, completed the survey anonymously. “Changes in top staff this late in the game are always a sign that the campaign and candidate recognize that they are lost. In this case, they have gone from bad to worse. Campaigns do not need ‘CEOs,’ and pollsters are not qualified to manage presidential efforts. He is in a constant cycle of moving from one set of ‘yes men’ to another.”
Nearly a half-dozen GOP insiders compared the changes to “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic” — a reference to Trump’s significant deficit in the polls.
A Virginia Republican made a similar analogy: “You can keep moving people in and out of the car, but so long as the drunk guy is driving it while blindfolded, the ride probably isn’t going to get any smoother.”
In fact, a slight plurality of Republicans, 37 percent, said they weren’t sure whether the changes would move the campaign in the right or wrong directions. For most of those insiders, Trump’s difficulties begin and end at the top.
“The problem was never the organization, or obvious lack thereof. The problem has always been Donald,” said an Iowa Republican. “He lost the election the day he descended down the escalator. There is no pivot, no second act, and no path to the presidency that runs down the road of racism and incendiary intolerance. He chose that road when he chose birtherism, and it’s a one-way route to ruin. How fitting that that final word associated with Trump, after all, will be ‘loser.’ ”
“No matter who he hires,” a Florida Republican added, “his Inner Voice runs the show.”
But some Republican insiders praised the moves. A North Carolina Republican called Bannon “a bomb-thrower” but with “good aim.”
“Installing a guy at the top whose motto is ‘Honey Badger don’t give a f—’ won’t do much to reassure donors and establishment Republicans,” the Republican said. “But we’re way past that now. [Bannon] is an unconventional pick — but for this most unconventional of candidates, it makes sense.”
Others were more critical of Bannon — but did applaud Conway’s appointment.
“Maybe having [Conway] on the plane sitting next to him and being the last person he talks to will keep him a little better on message,” a Virginia Republican said. “If she is a calming influence it could help. The Breitbart guy is just a joke.”
But ultimately, insiders said the moves — and the apparent sidelining of campaign chairman Paul Manafort — represents a candidate intent on doing things his way, with little hope of success.
“Paul Manafort was trying to run a conventional campaign with an unconventional candidate,” said an Ohio Republican. “At this point, it’s too late to do much to fix their non-existent ground game. His only hope is to have a team that lets Trump be Trump since that is the only thing that has worked for him. And he’s still almost certain to lose in spectacular fashion.”
Democratic insiders are split on whether to shut down the Clinton Foundation.
The not-for-profit Clinton Foundation announced Thursday that it won’t accept corporate or foreign donations if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency — but don’t expect the foundation to stop dogging Clinton’s campaign.
Two-thirds of insiders in the swing states said this week — prior to the foundation’s announcement — that Clinton and her family should suspend fundraising for the foundation until after the election, and they should shut the foundation down altogether if she wins.
But there’s a clear partisan divide. Democrats are divided on whether Clinton should suspend the foundation’s activities. A narrow majority, 56 percent, point to the foundation’s charitable works around the world as reason why it should continue to accept donations even as Clinton runs for president. But for the other Democratic insiders, the foundation is a needless distraction that outweighs its good works.
For Republicans, on the other hand, it’s a “no-brainer.” They see the foundation as a “corrupt,” “pay-to-play” scheme that enriched the Clintons when she served as secretary of state.
Questions about the foundation took on new resonance over the past week after newly released emails revealed communication between the foundation and the State Department during Clinton’s tenure as secretary. But criticism of Clinton’s response to the story didn’t just come from Republican officials and conservative groups — the reliably liberal Boston Globe editorial board this week called the foundation “clearly a liability” for Clinton’s campaign and said it should stop accepting donations until the election and shut down if Clinton wins.
Democrats almost uniformly praised the foundation’s charity work — but some worried that voters would see a scandal, not the overseas projects.
“The Clinton Foundation does very important work in the developing world, and while it is ridiculous how the GOP is attacking it, from a purely optics standpoint, shut it down and just finish the campaign,” said a Florida Democrat who, like all respondents, completed the survey anonymously.
“Perception is everything in politics,” added a Nevada Democrat. “Might as well not create any potential liabilities that can hurt your chances.”
But for the slim majority of Democrats who want to see the foundation stay up and running, the good the foundation does outweighs any potential drag on Clinton’s candidacy.
“I understand the conflict-of-interest concerns, and the Clintons haven’t done a great job of allaying anyone’s fears along those lines,” said a Colorado Democrat. “But it’s a huge organization with a lot of big initiatives — seems like there should be a way of keeping it going with new leadership and some kind of significant ‘Chinese Wall’ arrangement.”
“The Clinton Foundation has changed the lives to the good of millions through their remarkable work,” added a New Hampshire Democrat. “It is disgusting how it has been dragged through the mud by vicious Republicans and the clueless media.”
Republicans, on the other hand, were almost unanimous: 93 percent said the foundation shouldn’t accept donations for the rest of the campaign.
“There is too much room for conflict [of interest],” said a Michigan Republican. “And Hillary has no margin for error on the trust issue.”
Added an Iowa Republican: “If elected, the appearance of impropriety would be too much to ignore and a constant source of Republican griping. For the good of the country, she should shelve it for her term. She’ll make those millions back once she’s left office.”
But there’s not much GOP optimism that Trump will make the most of any opportunities the foundation affords to score points against Clinton.
“This is one of Trump’s biggest flaws,” said a Michigan Republican. “He has missed so many opportunities to hammer home the questionable dealings of the Clinton Foundation, as well as Clinton’s home brew email server, by failing to run a disciplined, professional campaign. Instead, we hear about Paul Manafort’s Ukraine ties.”
These are the members of The POLITICO Caucus, not all of whom participated in this special survey:
Colorado: Ryan Call, Laura Carno, Matt Chandler, Will Coyne, Adam Eichberg, Mark Ferrandino, Cole Finegan, Michael Fortney, Andrew Freedman, Ted Harvey, Craig Hughes, Owen Loftus, Pete Maysmith, Frank McNulty, Karen Middleton, Christopher Murray, BJ Nikkel, Josh Penry, Rick Ridder, Alan Salazar, Janice Sinden, Pat Steadman, Pat Waak, Steve Welchert, Taylor West, Roxane White, Rob Witwer
Florida: Fernand Amandi, Scott Arceneaux, JP Austin, Tim Baker, Dennis K. Baxley, Slater Bayliss, Dave Beattie, Wayne Bertsch, Ron Book, Pamela Burch Fort, Jose Calderon, Kevin Cate, Kelly Cohen, Gus Corbella, Brian Crowley, Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder, Justin Day, Judith Diaz, Nelson Diaz, John Dowless, Ryan Duffy, Jessica Ehrlich, Joe Falk, Alia Faraj-Johnson, Mark Ferrulo, Damien Filer, Marty Fiorentino, Rich Heffley, Nick Iarossi, David Johnson, Eric Johnson, Marian Johnson, Eric Jotkoff, Chris Korge, Jackie Lee, Susan MacManus, Beth Matuga, Fred Menachem, Jon Mills, Joe Mobley, Ben Pollara, Andrea Reilly, Steve Schale, April Schiff, Max Steele, Roger Stone, Richard Swann, Kevin Sweeny, Christian Ulvert, Steve Vancore, Ashley Walker, Andrew Weinstein, Andrew Wiggins, Ryan Wiggins, Rick Wilson
Iowa: Tim Albrecht, Brad Anderson, Rob Barron, Jeff Boeyink, Bonnie Campbell, Dave Caris, Sam Clovis, Jerry Crawford, Sara Craig, John Davis, Steve Deace, John Deeth, Derek Eadon, Ed Failor Jr., Karen Fesler, David Fischer, Ben Foecke, Doug Gross, Steve Grubbs, Tim Hagle, Bob Haus, Joe Henry, Drew Ivers, Jill June, Lori Jungling, Jeff Kaufmann, Brian Kennedy, Jake Ketzner, David Kochel, Chris Larimer, Chuck Larson, Jill Latham, Jeff Link, Dave Loebsack, Mark Lucas, Liz Mathis, Jan Michelson, Chad Olsen, David Oman, Matt Paul, Marlys Popma, Troy Price, Christopher Rants, Kim Reem, Craig Robinson, Sam Roecker, David Roederer, Nick Ryan, Tamara Scott, Joni Scotter, Karen Slifka, John Smith, AJ Spiker, Norm Sterzenbach, John Stineman, Matt Strawn, Charlie Szold, Phil Valenziano, Jessica Vanden Berg, Nate Willems, Eric Woolson, Grant Young
Michigan: Jill Alper, Saul Anuzis, Andrea Bitely, Lori Carpentier, Howard Edelson, Jordan Gehrke, Steve Hood, Darwin Jiles Jr., Joe Lehman, Dennis Lennox, Katie Packer, Ronna Romney McDaniel, John Truscott, Stephanie White, John Yob
Nevada: Mac Abrams, Greg Bailor, Barbara Buckley, Yvanna Cancela, Bob Cavazos, Linda Cavazos, Jim DeGraffenreid, Andrew Diss, Peter Ernaut, Ryan Erwin, Chip Evans, Jay Gerstema, Oscar Goodman, Ryan Hamilton, Dan Hart, Pat Hickey, Zach Hudson, Jeremy Hughes, Megan Jones, Lindsey Jydstrup, Adam Khan, Peter Koltak, Roberta Lange, Sam Liberman, Laura Martin, Michael McDonald, Chuck Muth, Erven Nelson, Kristen Orthman, Neal Patel, Nick Phillips, Jon Ralston, Andres Ramires, Emmy Ruiz, Scott Scheid, Mike Slanker, James Smack, Paul Smith, Jack St. Martin, Mari St. Martin, Daniel Stewart, Brendan Summers, Riley Sutton, Robert Uithoven, Michelle White, Ed Williams, Heidi Wixom
New Hampshire: Charlie Arlinghaus, Arnie Arnesen, Patrick Arnold, Rich Ashooh, Dean Barker, Juliana Bergeron, D.J. Bettencourt, Michael Biundo, Ray Buckley, Peter Burling, Jamie Burnett, Debby Butler, Dave Carney, Jackie Cilley, Catherine Corkery, Corriveau, Fergus Cullen, Lou D’Allesandro, James Demers, Mike Dennehy, Sean Downey, Steve Duprey, JoAnn Fenton, Jennifer Frizzell, Martha Fuller Clark, Amanda Grady Sexton, Jack Heath, Gary Hirshberg, Jennifer Horn, Peter Kavanaugh, Joe Keefe, Rich Killion, Harrell Kirstein, Sylvia Larsen, Joel Maiola, Kate Malloy Corriveau, Maureen Manning, Steve Marchand, Tory Mazzola, Jim Merrill, Jayne Millerick, Claira Monier, Greg Moore, Matt Mowers, Terie Norelli, Chris Pappas, Liz Purdy, Tom Rath, Colin Reed, Jim Rubens, Andy Sanborn, Dante Scala, William Shaheen, Stefany Shaheen, Carol Shea-Porter, Terry Shumaker, Andy Smith, Craig Stevens, Kathy Sullivan, Chris Sununu, James Sununu, Jay Surdukowski, Donna Sytek, Kari Thurman, Colin Van Ostern, Deb Vanderbeek, Mike Vlacich, Ryan Williams
North Carolina: Don Davis, Francis X. De Luca, Anita Earls, Jonathan Felts, Tami L. Fitzgerald, Dylan Frick, Taylor Griffin, Robin Hayes, Morgan Jackson, Patsy Keever, Theresa Kostrzewa, Michael Luethy, Ray Martin, Thomas Mills, Melissa L. Reed, Chris Sgro, Paul Shumaker, Dee Stewart, Brad Thompson, Bruce Thompson, Charlie Wallin, Doug Wilson
Ohio: Jerry Austin, Greg Beswick, Matt Borges, Erica Bruton, Tim Burke, Janet Carson, Jai Chabria, Martha Clark, Bob Clegg, Damareo Cooper, Jo Ann Davidson, Michael Dawson, Bill DeMora, Cindy Demse, Kathy Dicristofaro, Katie Eagan, Michael Gonidakis, Wes Goodman, Joe Hallett, Ian James, Melissa Klide Hedden, David Leland, Nick Martin, Rhine McLin, David Pepper, Molly Shack, Mark R. Weaver
Pennsylvania: Chris Borick, Larry Ceisler, Valentino DiGiorgio, Jason Ercole, Dan Fee, Charlie Gerow, Marcel Groen, Leslie Gromis Baker, Mark Harris, Nan McLaughlin, Aubrey Montgomery, Christopher Nicholas, Nachama Soloveichik, David Sosar, Todd Stephens, Doc Sweitzer, David Thornburgh, Ray Zaborney
Virginia: Ray Allen, Sandra Brandt, Marc K. Broklawski, Patsy Brown, Janet Carver, John Cosgrove, Brian Coy, Doris Crouse-Mays, Tom Davis, Julie Dime, Abbi Easter, Mike Farris, John Findlay, Joe Fitzgerald, Sean Harrison, Margo Horner, Robert Hurt, Gaylene Kanoyton, Chris LaCivita, Sue Langley, Frank Leone, Robert G. Marshall, Tucker Martin, Ed Matricardi, Susan J. Rowland, Peter Snyder, Susan Swecker, Jo Thoburn
Wisconsin: Meg Andrietsch, Mary Arnold, Kevin Barthel, Mike Basford, Rebecca Bonesteel, Barry Burden, Terri Burl, Jim Camery, Patrick Guarasci, Robert Hansen, Gary Hawley, Marian Krumberger, Emily Nehring, Jason Rae, Brandon Scholz, John Zapfel
Kristen Hayford contributed to this report.