Friday, April 22, 2016

Senior Trump Aide Paul Manafort Reveals to RNC that Trump is Just Playing a Part Onstage

Paul Manafort Wooing RNC Saying Trump Projects an Image Onstage

One of the virtues which Manhattan mogul Donald Trump has capitalized upon to become the front-runner in the 2016 Republican Presidential race is a perception that the blustery billionaire "tells it like it is".  Even Mark Cuban, who has had some public dust ups with the Donald, has praised Trump for giving honest answers instead of prepared answers.

Well, this straight shooting image has been impeached by a Trump Senior Aide as he wooed the RNC Rules Committee in Florida.  Paul Manafort, Trump 2016's recently named Convention Manager, told the GOP party establishment that during Phase One of the campaign, Trump is projecting an image one stage to appeal to voters. But that his image will change and a softer-side will come out.

After Trump convincingly won the New York Primary, it seems that he thought that the Trump campaign tried to implement Phase Two with a revealing NBC Today Show Townhall, in which Trump vowed to raise taxes on the rich (including himself), change the RNC Pro Life platform to make exceptions (which would please his friends at Planned Parenthood) and Trump urged North Carolina to accept Transgenders Bathrooms (because it was hurting business and not a problem).

Towards the Transgender topic, there was a firestorm on social media, and Trump relented during another friendly interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, in which Trump clarified that he believed in States' Rights. Perhaps they implemented Phase Two too soon.  Such much for a candidate to tells it like it is and does not pander to anyone.

Trump  supporters seem imbued with anger about the establishment and politicians lying to them.  This probably explains Trump's mantra against "Lyin'" Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and the new sobriquet against "Crooked" Hillary Clinton (D-NY). Trump's flip flop on transgenders in bathrooms challenges his projected anti-politically correct image as well as the perception that he stands firm. Those mesmerized in the Trump cult probably will believe whatever Trump tells them today, but it plays poorly in expanding his base, particularly for the general election.

Thoughtful primary voters have wondered about Trump's pro-life conversion.  Trump took three purportedly pro-life positions in one afternoon, including the modest proposal of punishing the aborting mother, sound like a pro-life parody from Planned Parenthood.  It was bad enough that Trump settled on the status quo, but the Trump Today Townhall creates a loophole so large that it threatens abortion on demand until parturition. Pro Lifers probably were not already keen on Trump but his vacillation on an issue of monumental proportion for the last 44 years does not project an image of thoughtfulness or stability.

As for Paul Manafort, his claim to fame was helping wrangle up delegates for President Ford in the quasi-contested 1976 convention in Kansas City.   Manafort seems to have pushed Corey Lewandowsky back to being Trump's body man (a role he relished regarding manhandling Michelle Fields). Manafort managed to keep Trump tame on social media for a fortnight and temporarily curtail insulting opponents.

But Manafort's style may be anachronistic. Forty years ago, it would have been easy to lobby the RNC's meeting without being noticed.  But when there are diffuse information platforms which reach millions at the touch of a button, this pandering would not go unnoticed.  Of course, smart phones make any off-the-record chats suspect. So Manafort's revelations were not to remain secret long.

Wooing waivering delegates may be more complicated than in the '76 campaign. If Trump needs to win more than two score of delegates for a first round victory, he does not have as much leeway as President Ford to shower favors on waivering support, as nice as golfing at Mar-a-Lago may be.  Hugh Hewitt has pointed out Paul Manafort's relative dearth of twitter contacts.  So who cares?  Well, during a contested convention in an information age when a campaign may have to immediately reach out to 2474 delegates, not being Twitter savvy is a liability.

As Manafort joined the Trump organization, a desperate plea was sent out to allies in Washington to register to become delegates.  Two problems with that missive. Firstly it was sent to Washington DC prospective delegates (which held its Caucus on March 12th) instead of Washington state.  Secondly, the email was sent the day after the deadline. Oops.

While it is unclear how much input Manafort had on Trump's decision to spend $20 million between now and the California primary on June 7th, it seems like a spending strategy from yesteryear.  As Jeb! learned in this cycle, dumping a ton of money with carpet bombing commercials may not nudge the needle up.  Trump recently hired a California campaign point person two months before the crucial Golden State primary.  Cruz has been working those fields for a year.  So earned media from friendly sites (like Fox News, Breitbart and Drudge et ali) and profligate paid media may help grease the skids but it does nothing to Get Out the Vote via organization.

Not to mention Paul Manafort experience as being a Washington lobbyist, who has some uncomfortable Saudi, Pakistani and Russian mob connections. Lobbying for foreign interests may be lucrative and par for the course for established Washington insiders, but it runs counter to a Populist, anti-establishment "Throw the bums out" mantra to "Make America Great Again".  Moreover, Manafort's cozying up to the GOP Establishment and claiming that Trump is just doing a schtick in Phase One of the campaign obliterates the aura of authenticity.

Manifort may be heralding Trump 2.0 but based on the recipe formulation, it may go over like New Coke, with customers yearning for "The Real Thing".

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