Trump is slow to invest in states that can decide elections; some in the Republican Party fear a “skeleton” campaign

(Mike Stewart/Associated Press)

Trump is slow to invest in states that can decide elections; some in the Republican Party fear a “skeleton” campaign


March 26, 2024

In his bid to retake the White House, few states hold as much promise for Donald Trump as Michigan.

The former president has already won the state once, and President Biden, who won it back for Democrats in 2020, faces vulnerabilities there as he seeks reelection. Trump’s campaign is promising an aggressive push for Michigan as part of a robust swing-state strategy.

But for now, those promises seem to be mostly just talk. The Trump campaign and its partners at the Republican National Committee have not yet made significant investments in the state’s general election, according to Pete Hoekstra, chairman of the Republican Party of Michigan. The national committee, he said, has not transferred funds to the state party to support its activities ahead of the general elections. There are no specific programs to court voters of color. And there are no general election field staff on site.

We have the skeleton now,” Hoekstra said. We’ll have to put more meat on it.

It’s much the same in presidential battleground states across the country, according to Republican operatives and party officials involved in campaign planning elsewhere.

Trump’s political operation, widely praised for its professionalism and effectiveness during the early stages of the 2024 election, has been slow to move toward the general election in the weeks following the hostile takeover of the Republican Party’s national political apparatus looked up. In fact, the former president’s team has reversed previous leaders’ plans to add hundreds of staffers and dozens of new minority outreach centers in key states, without offering a clear alternative.

Just six months before the first early votes are cast in the general election between Trump and Biden, Trump’s Republican Party has little general election infrastructure to speak of.

Officials on the ground in the top swing states are not panicking, but the disparity with the Biden campaign is stark.

This month alone, Biden opened 100 new offices and added more than 350 new staffers in swing states from Arizona to Georgia to Pennsylvania, according to campaign spokesman Ammar Moussa. That is in addition to the Democratic president’s existing 100 state staffers already in place.

Trump campaign adviser Chris LaCivita, who now also heads the RNC, declined to detail the Republican campaign’s plans.

By joining forces, the Trump campaign and the RNC are deploying operations powered by passionate volunteers who care about saving America and unseating Joe Biden, he said. However, we do not feel obligated to discuss the details of our strategy, timing or tactics with members of the news media.

Trump may discuss strategy behind closed doors with some Republican state officials.

Hoekstra was among a handful of Michigan Republican leaders who headed to Florida last week to meet privately with Trump and members of his senior campaign team about plans for the general election. The conversation, Hoekstra said, made him optimistic about the former president’s commitment to his state.

“I feel good about where we are now. The Trump team is committed.”

Earlier this month, Trump replaced Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel with his new hand-picked leadership team, including daughter-in-law Lara Trump, who is now co-chair of the RNC. LaCivita, who took over as committee chief of staff, promised sweeping changes to the Republican Party’s political infrastructure across the country.

In the days that followed, more than 60 Republican staffers across the country received layoff notices. They included virtually all of the people staffing the RNC’s minority community centers and others in the committee’s States Party Strategies Division.

There was never a fully cohesive connection between the Trump campaign and the RNC in the past, and we now operate as one entity, Lara Trump said Tuesday on David Webb’s SiriusXM Patriot channel program. We took away a lot of fat.

Facing internal resistance to some cuts, Lara Trump vowed that the commission’s six existing community centers would remain open. But it is unclear whether Trump’s team will follow through on McDaniel’s plans to open 40 more community centers in the coming months.

The centers were seen as a crucial resource in strengthening the Republican Party’s relationships with minority groups who have traditionally voted Democratic but may be open to the Republican Party’s populist message. Advocates suggest such investments have had a significant impact in recent years, especially in competitive housing districts where a few thousand votes can make a difference.

It appears there is a consensus that community centers are vital to the Republican Party in general, said Shawn Steel, an RNC member from California who credits a community center in Orange County’s Little Saigon for helping his wife, Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Seal). Beach), wins her seat.

Democrats, he said, have been effective advocates for minority communities since Tammany Hall in New York City more than two centuries ago. We’re trying to catch up, he said. I am optimistic.

Amid this optimism, however, there is also a deep sense of uncertainty as Trump’s team rewrites the party’s 2024 constitutional strategy after burning the previous playbook.

Trump’s lieutenants have already postponed plans before McDaniel’s ouster that would have begun adding hundreds of Republican staffers in battleground states starting this month, according to people with direct knowledge of the plans who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private conversations .

It is unclear if and when field personnel will eventually arrive on site. Recently laid-off staffers have begun interviewing for new positions, although some have been told they will have to move to Florida or new states.

Georgia GOP Chairman Joshua McKoon said he has had several meetings with RNC leadership about deploying additional resources to his state, although there is no timeline.

What wins elections is having the staff necessary to implement your voting plan, so that’s what I’m most interested in, McKoon said. I certainly expect that there will be further discussions about the timeline and some more details in the very near future.

He added: I had a feeling we were going to get what we needed.

Recognizing a growing sense of urgency, newly elected RNC Chairman Michael Whatley sent a memo to party officials this weekend promising that the committee will build on our existing programs and expand our reach at the RNC.

He pledged to re-engage America’s working voters, “continue to engage rural voters and expand Trump’s support to include demographic groups that have traditionally not voted for our candidates.”

Whatley, however, provided no details beyond mentioning a new battleground state program that would direct officials within the committee’s State Parties Strategies Division to work with Republican auxiliary groups and other grassroots organizations “alongside state parties.”

When asked, Trump’s team did not clarify which grassroots organizations that meant, although before his recent election the chairman aggressively targeted leaders of Turning Point USA, a leading group in Trump’s Make America Great Again movement, which had been a driving force behind the impeachment of McDaniel, had courted. .

On Tuesday, Lara Trump wrote Awesome! in sharing a social media post from Turning Point founder and CEO Charlie Kirk highlighting the group’s efforts to organize full-time polling places in Arizona and other states.

Meanwhile, Biden’s campaign earlier this month launched a $30 million, six-week advertising blitz targeting swing state voters, with a particular emphasis on Black- and Latino-owned outlets and on culture and sports programming such as Comedy Central and ESPN.

Biden is also hitting the campaign trail with more intensity.

He has campaigned in recent days in Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Michigan. He was in North Carolina on Tuesday, signaling the president’s ambition in a state that Trump narrowly won in 2020.

Trump, on the other hand, has barely been seen in public this month, aside from his court appearances.

Moussa, Biden’s spokesman, mocked Trump for embracing a general election strategy aimed at seemingly hiding out at his country club.

Meanwhile, the RNC is firing staffers, closing community centers and shutting down their minority programs. Not exactly how to win the hearts and minds of the American people or get 270 electoral votes, Moussa said.

Peoples writes for the Associated Press.


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