BuzzFeed published a pretty striking report over the weekend on Donald Trump’s on-the-ground operation, noting in many key states, the Trump campaign hardly exists. In North Carolina, for example, no one seems to know where the campaign headquarters is located. In Florida, the campaign has been operating “a bare-bones operation, with one office in Sarasota and four staff.”
The Republican nominee said late last week, “I don’t know that we need to get out the vote.” Evidently, he wasn’t kidding.
But a closer look suggests Trump has some backup: his operation isn’t taking issues like campaign infrastructure seriously, but the Republican National Committee is. In states where Team Trump is doing very little actual work, the RNC has a formidable on-the-ground operation, helping pick up the slack. In Florida, for example, BuzzFeed’s report added that the RNC “currently has 75 staffers on the ground … as well as 1,400 volunteers and fellows in charge of local organizing.”
So, problem solved? Maybe, although there’s an overarching problem: what happens if the Republican National Committee decides to give up on Trump? Politico reported over the weekend that party leaders, “at the highest levels,” have starting talking privately about “cutting off support to Trump in October and redirecting cash to save endangered congressional majorities.”
According to sources close to [RNC Chairman Reince] Priebus, the chairman has warned that if Trump does not better heed this persistent advice to avoid dustups driven by his rhetoric, the RNC might not be able to help him as much – suggesting that money and ground resources might be diverted.To this point, [Sean Spicer, the RNC’s top strategist] has suggested a mid-October deadline for turning around the presidential campaign, suggesting last week to reporters and in separate discussions with GOP operatives that it would cause serious concern inside the RNC if Trump were to remain in a weakened position by then.Operatives close to the RNC leadership who have heard this argument from party leadership, say the committee might have to make a decision about pulling the plug on Trump before that.
Slate added, “Word of cutting off Trump comes days after news that more than 70 high-profile Republicans signed an open letter calling on RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to stop funding Trump and use the money for Senate and House races instead.”
This wouldn’t be unprecedented: in the fall of 1996, Republican officials recognized that Bob Dole was going to come up short, and rather than invest in a campaign that wasn’t going to win, the party redirected resources to congressional races. (It worked: the GOP kept its House and Senate majorities in 1996, despite losing the presidential race by a wide margin.)
The difference, however, is that Dole had a credible campaign of his own. Trump doesn’t. If the RNC gives up on the party’s presidential nominee this year, it won’t just be a slap in the face to Trump; it will also take away the operation Trump is counting on to have a fighting chance.