5. They’ve ID’d 13.5 million persuadable voters in 16 battleground states + say they think they can still win — but not by going positive.
— Joshua Green (@JoshuaGreen) October 27, 2016
… which could have been subtitled “Dead Andrew Breitbart’s Chosen Heir Sets Up His Own Shop (with some help from Donald Trump)”. Their vaunted voter-suppression tactics are, quite justifiably, getting the most attention right now, but the real story is that Steve Bannon and his fellow “alt right” racists are using the Trump campaign as a shell to grab customers frustrated with the GOP brand:
… Almost every public and private metric suggests Trump is headed for a loss, possibly an epic one. His frustrated demeanor on the campaign trail suggests he knows it. Yet even as he nears the end of his presidential run, his team is sowing the seeds of a new enterprise with a direct marketing effort that they insist could still shock the world on Election Day.
Beginning last November, then ramping up in earnest when Trump became the Republican nominee, Kushner quietly built a sprawling digital fundraising database and social media campaign that’s become the locus of his father-in-law’s presidential bid. Trump’s top advisers won’t concede the possibility of defeat, but they’re candid about the value of what they’ve built even after the returns come in—and about Trump’s desire for influence regardless of outcome. “Trump is a builder,” says Bannon, in a rare interview. “And what he’s built is the underlying apparatus for a political movement that’s going to propel us to victory on Nov. 8 and dominate Republican politics after that.”
If Trump wants to strengthen his hold on his base, then his apocalyptic rhetoric on the stump begins to make more sense. Lately he’s sounded less like a candidate seeking to persuade moderates and swing voters and more like the far-right populist leaders who’ve risen throughout Europe. Most Republican Party officials ardently hope he’ll go away quietly if he loses. But given all that his campaign—and Kushner’s group especially—has been doing behind the scenes, it looks likelier that Trump and his lieutenants will stick around. They may emerge as a new media enterprise, an outsider political movement, or perhaps some combination of the two: an American UK Independence Party (UKIP) that will wage war on the Republican Party—or, rather, intensify the war that Trump and Bannon have already begun.
To outsiders, the Trump campaign often appears to be powered by little more than the candidate’s impulses and Twitter feed. But after Trump locked down the GOP nomination by winning Indiana’s primary, Kushner tapped Parscale, a political novice who built web pages for the Trump family’s business and charities, to begin an ambitious digital operation fashioned around a database they named Project Alamo. With Trump atop the GOP ticket, Kushner was eager to grow fast. “When we won the nomination, we decided we were going to do digital fundraising and really ramp this thing up to the next level,” says a senior official. Kushner, this official continued, “reached out to some Silicon Valley people who are kind of covert Trump fans and experts in digital marketing. They taught us about scaling. There’s really not that much of a difference between politics and regular marketing.”…
Regardless of whether this works or backfires, setting back GOP efforts to attract women and minorities even further, Trump won’t come away from the presidential election empty-handed. Although his operation lags previous campaigns in many areas (its ground game, television ad buys, money raised from large donors), it’s excelled at one thing: building an audience. Powered by Project Alamo and data supplied by the RNC and Cambridge Analytica, his team is spending $70 million a month, much of it to cultivate a universe of millions of fervent Trump supporters, many of them reached through Facebook. By Election Day, the campaign expects to have captured 12 million to 14 million e-mail addresses and contact information (including credit card numbers) for 2.5 million small-dollar donors, who together will have ponied up almost $275 million. “I wouldn’t have come aboard, even for Trump, if I hadn’t known they were building this massive Facebook and data engine,” says Bannon. “Facebook is what propelled Breitbart to a massive audience. We know its power.”…
Parscale was building his own list of Trump supporters, beyond the RNC’s reach. Cambridge Analytica’s statistical models isolated likely supporters whom Parscale bombarded with ads on Facebook, while the campaign bought up e-mail lists from the likes of Gingrich and Tea Party groups to prospect for others. Some of the ads linked directly to a payment page, others—with buttons marked “Stand with Trump” or “Support Trump”—to a sign-up page that asked for a name, address, and online contact information. While his team at Giles-Parscale designed the ads, Parscale invited a variety of companies to set up shop in San Antonio to help determine which social media ads were most effective. Those companies test ad variations against one another—the campaign has ultimately generated 100,000 distinct pieces of creative content—and then roll out the strongest performers to broader audiences. At the same time, Parscale made the vendors, tech companies with names such as Sprinklr and Kenshoo, compete Apprentice-style; those whose algorithms fared worst in drumming up donors lost their contracts. Each time Parscale returned to San Antonio from Trump Tower, he would find that some vendors had been booted from their offices.
Parscale’s department not only paid for itself but also was the largest source of campaign revenue. That endeared it to a candidate stingy with other parts of the budget. When Trump fired his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, Parscale’s responsibilities grew, then further still when Lewandowski’s replacement, Paul Manafort, flamed out. In June, Parscale, whose prior political experience was a Bexar County tax assessor’s race (his client lost), became Trump’s digital director and, in many ways, the linchpin of his unusual run…
The guys running Trump’s campaign — up to and including his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — have no more loyalty to the Republican party than a tapeworm does to its host. None of them could front a political operation (if only because, going by the photo accompanying the Bloomberg piece, the office style code is ‘predator chic’), but the Greedy Old Party in its current incarnation has a significant membership ripe for a new… outlet:
… According to a source close to Trump, the idea of a Trump TV network originated during the Republican primaries as a threat Kushner issued to Roger Ailes when Trump’s inner circle was unhappy with the tenor of Fox News’s coverage. The warring factions eventually reconciled. But Trump became enamored by the power of his draw after five media companies expressed interest. “One thing Jared always tells Donald is that if the New York Times and cable news mattered, he would be at 1 percent in the polls,” says the source. “Trump supporters really don’t have a media outlet where they feel they’re represented—CNN has gone fully against Trump, MSNBC is assumed to be against Trump, and Fox is somewhere in the middle. What we found is that our people have organized incredibly well on the web. Reddit literally had to change their rules because it was becoming all Trump. Growing the digital footprint has really allowed us to take his message directly to the people.”
It’s not clear how much of this digital audience will remain in Trump’s thrall if he loses. But the number should be substantial. “Trump will get 40 percent of the vote, and half that number at least will buy into his claim that the election was rigged and stolen from him,” says Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign chief and an outspoken Trump critic. “That is more than enough people to support a multibillion-dollar media business and a powerful presence in American politics.”…
The “Trump campaign” is no longer about winning voters (if it ever was). It’s about market share:
11. If Trump loses, here's nightmare GOP scenario: he merges with Bannon to start a political-media movement, an American UKIP. Sound crazy?
— Joshua Green (@JoshuaGreen) October 27, 2016
15. Bottom line: Trump ain't walkin away empty-handed, has grifted GOP + donors to build list worth as much as $112 million that he now owns
— Joshua Green (@JoshuaGreen) October 27, 2016
A comfy home for the whole Basket of Deplorables — with an earned-media rollout on the front page of every mainstream political outlet. Mr. Charles P. Pierce, at Esquire:
… [T]he story’s real news is how the overall Trump operation is built to last, which is the thing that ought to shake Republicans all the way down to the tassels on their loafers. Unless the whole thing is some kind of Potemkin fundraising scam, and I do not dismiss that possibility entirely, any hope that the Republican establishment has of hand-waving Trumpism into ancient history is clearly doomed…
As with all things Trump, the whole thing may just be an elaborate plan to turn your money into his money. Or, also as with all things Trump, the man himself may just lose interest in the whole thing and go on to some other doomed-to-fail new venture. (One of the country’s night terrors should be that this latter consideration also applies to the presidency, if he should win.) But, as the kidz say, read the whole thing. The stuff between the lines is real and it’s ominous.