2016 Archives

Expert: If campaign were construction project, Trump would still be ‘wandering the aisles of Home Depot’

June 20, 2016

DALLAS (SMU) An SMU expert interprets Donald Trump’s decision to fire his campaign manager: 

LEWANDOWSKI’S FIRING PROVIDES GLIMPSE INTO DYSFUNCTIONAL CAMPAIGN 
 

Stephanie MartinSTEPHANIE MARTIN:
samartin@mail.smu.edu

After months of leaked reports of infighting between Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and senior advisor Paul Manafort, it appears Manafort has emerged the winner.

Lewandowski was fired Monday morning, which Martin says could mark a much-needed shift if Trump’s campaign is to recapture some positive momentum.

“This shows Trump has recognized he’s in trouble and he’s willing to do something pretty striking to try to reorient the ship,” Martin says. “The question that remains is: Will Donald Trump become more disciplined and less hyperbolic in his messaging? His history suggests no, but Paul Manafort has controlled the rhetoric of dictators before (example: former Philippines’ dictator Ferdinand Marcos), so we’ll see.”

With the Republican Convention just four weeks away, the pressing question is whether Manafort has time to salvage the floundering campaign.

“The Trump campaign is so far behind on things like data analytics, setting up the convention and hiring campaign staff … if this were a construction project, he’d still be wandering the aisles of Home Depot determining what hammer to buy while Hillary Clinton selects door knobs for her finished bathroom,” Martin says. “Trump wants to run this improvisational campaign, but he’s supposed to be a builder. He of all people should know you need a blueprint to get to a finished product. You can’t just keep changing the plans without occurring astronomical costs and, at some point, even if you’re willing to pay, it’s too late to fix things.”

While Trump’s tardiness in organizing his campaign is atypical for a presidential campaign, the resulting infighting that ousted Lewandowski is not, says Martin.

“Losing campaigns are notoriously full of back-fighting,” Martin says. “When you’re in a political environment and things are going well, it’s extremely empowering and you think you can change the world, like you’re on an episode of The West Wing. When campaigns start to lose, that’s when the back-fighting happens. When the internal discord becomes about the candidate, or when you have real debates about which direction a candidate should take, that’s when it becomes very bad for the campaign.”

Martin is an SMU assistant professor of Communication Studies in the Meadows School of the Arts. She can discuss:

  • economic messages in political campaigns
  • presidential campaign strategy
  • religious voters and evangelical social movements

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