I look forward to the Trump-can-do-no-wrong crowd’s explaining the Trump campaign’s thinking here. Yesterday morning around 10:00 a.m., pretty much the ideal time to maximize bad coverage going into the daily and weekly news cycle, the Trump campaign announced Corey Lewandowski’s firing. We’ve all heard the reports that this was an internal putsch orchestrated by Manafort and supported by the Trump kids and Trump’s son-in-law (or maybe it was the other way around). Regardless, yesterday, everyone was noting that this timing was amateurish. Trump could have done this Friday and changed the Sunday show conversation from his “foundering campaign” to Trump “righting the ship.” By Monday it would have seemed like old news. But no, they waited through the weekend and dropped it on the media Monday, like a salmon into a grizzly’s lap. Don’t get me wrong, I think Lewandowski, a starstruck body man turned campaign manager, deserved to be fired.
But, riddle me this Batman: If you knew this FEC report was coming out Monday night, why in the world wouldn’t you wait 24 hours to fire your campaign manager?
I should back up. For those who haven’t heard, Trump’s campaign released a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad fundraising report last night. In May he raised $3.2 million and had a meager $1.3 million cash on hand at the end of the month. This would be a very impressive haul — for a congressman. But for a presidential campaign in June, Trump is essentially broke.
Hillary, meanwhile, raised $27 million and had $42 million on hand. Ted Cruz and Ben Carson have more — a lot more — cash on hand than Trump does. But that doesn’t even capture the scope of the disparity. Clinton’s super PACs are like championship NFL teams. Trump’s are pee-wee league, at best.
It’s not just that, the man who some believe is a con man who got into this as a PR stunt that accidentally succeeded, is spending 20 percent of his money not on ads (he’s airing none) but on rent and other payments to his own businesses — events at Mar-a-Lago were among his biggest expenses.
Bonus: the alleged megabillionaire appears to be drawing a salary. Let that sink in.
Anyway, back to my question. Given the train wreck that this report represents, why wouldn’t you hold off and throw Lewandowski under the bus just 24 hours later? Remember: Lewandowski is a loyal scapegoat. He was fired because he’s the “let Trump be Trump” guy and Trump being Trump is what caused Trump’s precipitous drop in the polls. Lewandowski didn’t advise Trump to attack Judge Curiel for being Mexican. He didn’t tell him to say any of those things at Trump’s rallies. That’s all Trump and Lewandowski was his biggest cheerleader. They fired Lewandowski for the crime of loving Trump too much.
Meanwhile, failure to set up a ground game, failure to get fundraising up and running, failure to designate a preferred super-PAC, failure to respond to a single Clinton ad in swing states: These are failures that can be dropped at the campaign manager’s feet. Don’t get me wrong, I think Trump is to blame for all of that too. But, as a public relations matter, you can pin these kinds of things far more plausibly on Lewandowski. But no. They opted to fire Lewandowski right before the report. Isn’t that like putting on the bandage first and then cutting yourself?
I expect part of the explanation will be that I am wed to the Old Ways. I am a creature of the ancien régime of the beltway and Donald Trump is the Great Disrupter, thinking ten moves ahead, discarding the old model, blah, blah and blah. I am open to this argument if it comes with facts and data. But short of being persuaded of all that, I’ll stick to thinking Trump is wildly out of his depth, his grifter game played out, and he is throwing away a winnable race.