"Don’t worry about it, I’ll just figure it out"
This TIME Magazine inside look at Trump 2020 doesn't really break any new ground but it is fascinating nonetheless.
‘My whole life is a bet,’ the President of the United States says, resting his forearms on the edge of the Resolute desk in the Oval Office.
It’s a steamy evening in mid-June, and Trump is facing a set of high-stakes tests around the world. Tensions rising with Iran. Tariffs imposed by India. Protesters flooding the streets of Hong Kong. But Trump is confident, ready to joust. He has invited a group of TIME journalists for an interview, blown past the allotted time and settled in for a wide-ranging discussion. Along the way, he orders a Diet Coke with ice with the push of a small red button set into a wooden box on the desk, and directs an aide to fetch a copy of a hand-delivered birthday letter sent from Kim Jong Un.
Politics is rarely out of mind for any man who wills his way into this rarefied sanctum. Especially not one who calls his campaign manager on many days by 7 a.m., and certainly not now, the day before Trump formally kicks off his 2020 re-election bid. So it doesn’t take much prodding for the President, a former casino magnate, to start making book on the sprawling field of Democratic challengers.
A “progressive” will probably win the primary, Trump predicts, running down the competition with evident relish. Joe Biden “is not the same Biden,” he says, adding later, “Where’s the magic?” Kamala Harris, he notes, “has not surged.” Bernie Sanders is “going in the wrong direction.” Elizabeth Warren’s “doing pretty well,” he allows, but Pete Buttigieg “never” had a chance.
Why? “I just don’t feel it,” Trump says. “Politics is all instinct.”
Once again, Trump is putting his own instincts at the center of his campaign. The political mercenaries who tried to discipline his impulses in 2016 have been shown the door. The 2020 campaign is unmistakably Trump’s show. “We all have our meetings,” the President says. “But I generally do my own thing.” Campaign staff have been hired to follow Trump’s lead, and the President has made it known that when he tweets a new policy or improvises an attack at a rally, everyone had better be ready to follow along. “He blows the hole and everyone runs into the breach,” says an aide.
Gone is the rickety operation that eked out an upset victory over Hillary Clinton. In its place, advisers boast, is a state-of-the-art campaign befitting an incumbent President. Trump’s campaign is gearing up to spend $1 billion, and may well get there. His team has spent more money, earlier in the campaign, than any re-election bid in recent history. Campaign staff sit in slick offices in a glass-skinned tower overlooking the Potomac River in Arlington, Va. And Trump has won total control of the Republican National Committee, which fought against him for much of 2016.
Despite the trappings of convention, however, Trump has for the most part thrown out the playbook for incumbency. The last three two-term Presidents were lifted in important ways by a bipartisan message. Bill Clinton ran on the 1994 crime bill and tax reform. George W. Bush ran on keeping America safe in the wake of 9/11. Barack Obama reminded voters that Osama bin Laden was dead and General Motors was alive.
Trump, who lost the popular vote in 2016 and is the only President in the history of Gallup polling never to crack 50% approval, says he’s ready to defy that legacy. “I think my base is so strong, I’m not sure that I have to do that,” he tells TIME, after being asked whether he should reach out to swing voters. The mantra of Trump 2020 is “turnout, turnout, turnout,” as campaign manager Brad Parscale puts it. “People all think you have to change people’s minds. You have to get people to show up that believe in you.”
There is, of course, a large section of the country, the government and its centers of power that have not bent to Trump’s politics. That can infuriate the President. Halfway through the TIME interview, the subject turns to special counsel Robert Mueller, who survived nearly two years of attacks by Trump and his allies to produce a damning 448-page document enumerating Russia’s efforts to help Trump win in 2016.
Some of the people closest to Trump offered damaging evidence. His former chief of staff, White House counsel, deputy campaign chairman, Deputy National Security Adviser, staff secretary, communications director and others testified under oath, at risk of prison time, to acts by Trump that Mueller said were designed to “influence” and “control” the probe. While Mueller declined to say whether those acts amounted to obstruction of justice, Democrats and at least one Republican say they did. Pressed by TIME about his aides’ testimony, Trump becomes angry. “It’s incredible,” he says. “With all I’ve done, with the tremendous success I’ve had, that TIME magazine writes about me the way they write is a disgrace, O.K.?”
The moment provides a glimpse into why the Trump re-election operation runs on perpetual outrage. Those closest to him know a conventional campaign couldn’t regulate a man who scorns political and ethical norms and is unable to let challenges to his authority pass. He isn’t faking his outrage—about the media, the Mueller report, his opponents—and that anger, whatever its ultimate source, is politically powerful. “Nobody has been treated as unfairly as Donald Trump,” the President says.
That in turn means that Trump’s team may not have much choice in the kind of campaign it runs. “A unique challenge Trump’s campaign will always have is Trump is not tethered to the campaign,” says Robby Mook, who managed Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid. “He is going to go out and do whatever he does every day. So his campaign will have to figure out, strategically and tactically, how to cope with that.” The machine that Kushner and Parscale have built is designed to harness the power of Trump’s grievance message, which resonates with tens of millions of voters. “He’s not pivoting,” Kushner tells TIME. “The President is who he is and doesn’t pretend to be anything else.”
[C]ranking the outrage machine for so long may make it hard for voters to hear a subtler frequency. Privately, some Trump advisers say they need to do a better job touting the President’s record, especially on the economy. But can that message break through the pain Trump’s tariffs have caused for many voters? And in the meantime, a large chunk of the campaign budget is still being spent on hot-button topics like immigration. “They are trying to say they are running a normal campaign and doing outreach,” says Messina, who now tracks ad buys for his consulting firm. “It’s all show.”
For the moment, polls show Trump trailing the Democratic front runners in some key states. Trump is being briefed on polling data at least twice a month, and in the past few weeks has been requesting more granular breakdowns, according to a former adviser who speaks to Trump. “He’s aware that he’s not beating any of the major candidates right now one-on-one nationally,” the adviser says. He fired some of his pollsters after internal surveys were leaked showing him trailing Biden.
Trump himself doesn’t seem to know whether he can really beat the odds. Still fuming about Mueller, Trump keeps coming back to the investigation and makes contradictory claims about its effects. “Based on the economy, I should be up 15 or 20 points higher,” he says, but “the thing that I have that nobody’s ever had before, from the day I came down the escalator, I have had a phony witch hunt against me.” Minutes later, he asserts the opposite. The Mueller probe “turned out to be an asset,” he says, “because it’s really energized our base like I’ve never seen before.”
There’s no question Trump has significant advantages as he looks ahead to the re-election fight, beginning with time and money and the biggest megaphone on the planet. In his position, most incumbents would appeal for four more years by pledging to unite the country. Casting this approach aside makes him “historically unusual” for an incumbent President, says Timothy Naftali, former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. “He basically wants to beat the house, politically, again.” Whether he wins his bet or not, Trump’s campaign will test the power of outrage.
I dunno... Trump is betting that he can dance out of trouble the same way he always has.
Here's the perfect example of Trump's "strategery"
Heading into the final weekend before Election Day, President Donald Trump stuck to a dark, familiar script at two campaign rallies Friday, equating a vote for Democrats with chaos and crime.
"A blue wave would equal a crime wave, very simple," Trump told the crowd at his second rally of the day, in Indianapolis. "And a red wave equals jobs and security."
Earlier, in West Virginia, he suggested again that that blue wave could prevail — adding that if they did, he would still be alright.
“It could happen, could happen," Trump told the crowd of rally-goers in a Huntington airport hangar, with Air Force One in the background. "We are doing very well, and we are doing really well in the Senate, but it could happen.”
But if it did, said Trump, he'd be okay. "And you know what you do? My whole life, you know what I say? 'Don’t worry about it, I’ll just figure it out.' Does that make sense? I’ll just figure it out," he said.
He just wakes up each morning hoping he dance as fast as he can get through the day without the whole thing blowing up. That's it, that's all there is.
Now the whole world depends on his luck holding out until we can get rid of him.