In early August, Donald Trump appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and summarized his unique qualities as a presidential candidate. Nine months later, the quote has taken on even greater salience.
“I don’t have pollsters, I don’t want to waste money on pollsters,” the Republican candidate told Chuck Todd. “I don’t want to be unreal. I want to be me. I have to be me. You know, we have enough of that in Washington with pollsters telling everybody what to say and everybody being controlled by the special interests, and the lobbyists, et cetera, and the donors.”
Every single one of these boasts is no longer applicable. Lobbyists now run Team Trump; Republican mega-donors now finance Team Trump; and as of this week, the candidate who had no use for pollsters has, in fact, hired a pollster.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will hire pollster Tony Fabrizio, a strategic shift as he reconfigures his campaign with an eye toward the general election.A source close to the Trump campaign confirmed to NBC News the hire, which was first reported by Politico. Fabrizio is a veteran Republican pollster who most recently worked on Sen. Rand Paul’s presidential campaign and Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign. He also conducted polling for then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry during the 2012 presidential race.
To be sure, there are some qualities that make Donald Trump a candidate like no other. He’s never even sought public office; he has no real understanding of how government works; he’s refusing to disclose the kind of information other candidates have shared as a matter of course; he’s taken steps to condone violence at his campaign events; and he’s advocated the kind of racially charged xenophobic agenda that major-party nominees have traditionally not wanted to be part of.
But it’s against this backdrop that Trump has, in many ways, done the one thing he vowed not to do: become conventional. Every modern Republican nominee has relied on lobbyists, mega-donors, and pollsters, and as of this week, Trump is now just an inexperienced, unqualified version of his GOP predecessors.
He’s even started using teleprompters, even after having said, “When you’re really, really, really smart like me … I don’t need teleprompters.”
What’s less clear is whether or not the voters who liked Unconventional Donald will still like Conventional Donald.
I suspect it will come down to public awareness. Millions of Americans swooned when they saw a nativist conspiracy theorist self-fund a campaign free of lobbyists, pollsters, and teleprompters.
Will they hear about his conventional reinvention, or will they assume the Trump remains unchanged?