In 2016, President Donald Trump compared Hillary Clinton’s campaign to the lumbering federal bureaucracy. Now he’s building one of his own.
From an office tower across the Potomac River from Washington, from the bowels of the Republican National Committee’s headquarters on Capitol Hill and from field offices across the country, Trump is assembling an army of operatives to fight for victory in what stands to be a legacy-defining political battle.
Even with a sea of still-unfilled desks, his 2020 campaign is already unrecognizable from the fly-by-night operation of the last effort, when Trump won the White House despite his inexperienced campaign team.
Trump may still consider himself his own best strategist and communicator, but this time he’s leaving nothing to chance.
Trump’s 2020 effort is melding the RNC and his presidential campaign into one functional entity, with the two organizations sharing staff, resources and data in what they argue is the perfect model of the modern integrated campaign.
“We are creating the largest and most efficient campaign operation in American history with the ability to reach more voters than ever before,” said Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale.
Still, the constant and greatest source of uncertainty for the new effort remains Trump his disdain for feeling managed and his unwavering belief in his own gut instincts above all else.
“Everything the campaign does is to complement and reinforce the candidate, it’s not a substitute for the candidate,” said GOP strategist Alex Conant. “The candidate needs to be in sync with the campaign.”
Trump’s attacks on the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona earlier this month marked an example of how a candidate could unsettle his own political effort.
Driving the 2020 operation is Parscale, a confidant of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is the White House overseer of the campaign. Parscale brings an unusual pedigree to the position: He did website work for Trump’s golf properties before being hired to run Trump’s digital efforts in 2016, when his targeted Facebook ads helped drive Trump voters in the Midwest to the polls.
A priority of both Parscale and Kushner, aides said, is reducing the disruptive staff turnover that defined Trump’s first White House bid and continued through his first two years in the White House.
Key campaign hires have had to pass muster with both men. And Parscale, with his 13-month tenure in the job, already has lasted longer than any of Trump’s three 2016 campaign heads.