Trump’s Facelift

By | 6/22/2016 Leave a Comment
Trump Facelift

The dismissal of Corey Lewandowski from the Trump campaign on Monday was far more than an organizational shakeup or retooling. It was a dramatic acknowledgement of the fact that what had worked so well in the past simply wasn’t working anymore. Lewandowski had outlived his usefulness.

Trump, famously loyal to his inner circle, had seen his political stock soar to unimagined heights under the guidance and counsel his campaign manager, whom he’d first met in 2014 at an Americans for Prosperity event in New Hampshire and subsequently hired for the top job the following year. But at a critical point in the Republican nomination race, that famous loyalty was about to be severely tested.

When Lewandowski became embroiled in a physical altercation involving Michelle Fields, then a reporter for Breitbart News, at a March 8 campaign event in Jupiter, Florida, the fallout was potentially crippling. However, despite Lewandowski being charged with one count of simple battery (since dropped) by the Jupiter Police Department, and the maelstrom of negative publicity that ensued, Trump stood by his man unfailingly.

So what changed?

In a nomination race that tore up the political rule book and then some, Lewandowski’s mantra of just letting ‘Trump be Trump’ worked like a charm. The billionaire businessman’s brash, often politically incorrect and always headline-grabbing comments were music to Republican voters’ ears. Even if they didn’t always agree with everything he said, they fully embraced the sense of honesty and straightforwardness that Trump’s style embodied.

After his decisive, fate-sealing victory in Indiana, the required 1,237 delegates needed for the nomination soon followed and everything seemed to be going Trump and Lewandowski’s way. But what worked for the primary was clearly not going to be the same formula needed for the general election…clear perhaps to all but a few – including Trump and Lewandowski.

In the ensuing weeks, stories began appearing of the ongoing litigation of Trump’s namesake university. But instead of ignoring the controversy or attempting to change the media's narrative, Trump fanned the flames. He accused the judge in the case – an American born in Indiana of Mexican heritage – of being biased and unable to perform his job due to his race, referring to the justice as a “Mexican.” As controversy swirled over his comments, Trump – in nomination race-style – doubled and tripled down on them.

Then came the Orlando massacre – the worst mass shooting in the U.S. in modern times. Here, then, was an opportunity to show real presidential stature and deportment to the entire country at a time of crisis. But instead of words of empathy, consolation and high-minded resolve, Trump instead took the opportunity to tweet a little self-congratulation on being “right” about Islamic extremists, before going on to resurrect and expand his controversial call for a total ban of Muslims coming into the country as well as surveillance of mosques in the United States.    

Agree with his words or not, this kind of rhetoric was not going to play well to a great many independents and blue-collar Democrats – two groups critical to his chances in November – and it didn’t take long for the polls to bear that out.

The ‘just let Trump be Trump’ philosophy of Lewandowski that had worked so well with the Republican base was now proving itself to be a self-destructive losing strategy with the broader electorate – the one that elects presidents…or not.

It was time for a change – and not just a tinkering but a veritable facelift. If Lewandowski was the face of nomination race success, he was now rapidly becoming the face of general election failure.

Many have attributed Lewandowski’s removal to campaign infighting with, among others, Trump’s son Eric, his daughter Ivanka, and particularly with Ivanka’s husband Jared Kushner, who has assumed the role of one of Trump’s most trusted advisers. But in the final analysis, it will have been those all-important poll numbers that were likely to have been the biggest influencer in the real estate tycoon’s decision to axe his longtime ally.

Loyalty to those closest to him has indeed been a policy that Donald Trump has long been an adherent of, but there is one thing that he puts on a higher pedestal – something that has been the driving force of his entire career – and that’s winning.

The upshot:

With Lewandowski’s influence excised and his poll numbers in sobering descent, Trump may finally find himself in a position to be able to remake his image into a more palatable presidential prospect for those who remain unconvinced. If he doesn’t, all of that unfiltered straight-talk and ballyhoo isn’t going to get him very far…not as far as 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, at any rate.

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