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Eye On Candidates
April 6, 2016

Trump Campaign Fights Itself

Donald Trump's campaign has had a rough week, beginning with his controversial comments on abortion and culminating in a big loss in Wisconsin last night. The most interesting news, however, may be from two Politico stories out this morning and yesterday afternoon. The headline of the earlier piece says it all:

Trump campaign in disarray

Donald Trump’s campaign is increasingly falling into disarray as the Manhattan billionaire braces for a loss in Wisconsin that could set him on course for an uncertain convention floor fight for the Republican presidential nomination.

Since March, the campaign has been laying off field staff en masse around the country and has dismantled much of what existed of its organizations in general-election battlegrounds, including Florida and Ohio.

Last month, the campaign laid off the leader of its data team, Matt Braynard, who did not train a successor. It elevated his No. 2, a data engineer with little prior high-level political strategy experience, and also shifted some of his team’s duties to a 2015 college graduate whose last job was an internship with the consumer products company Colgate-Palmolive. Some of the campaign’s data remains inaccessible....

The loss of Braynard might be the biggest problem for the Trump team- data is the lifeblood of a campaign, and without readily-available information on which voters to target the task of getting supporters turned out becomes much more difficult - if it weren't for the existence of what is probably an even bigger problem, a delegate team that is simply not up to the task, or at least not according to the article:

There is also mounting evidence that the Trump campaign’s lack of organization is hurting him in the critical fight for delegates that is playing out at the state level. After winning Louisiana, Trump was surprised to learn that he failed to secure as many delegates there as [Ted] Cruz and has threatened to sue.

And last weekend in Colorado, Trump was shut out as Ted Cruz secured all six of the delegates elected at two congressional district assemblies that were held a week ahead of the state GOP convention, where the delegation’s remaining 27 delegates will be elected Saturday.

At the assembly in Denver, Trump seemed to have as many or more supporters show up than Cruz. But they didn’t have a plan. The Cruz campaign, meanwhile, encouraged its supporters to unite behind a slate of delegates, enabling the Texas senator to win all three delegate slots from the district (the same situation played out later Saturday afternoon at the other assembly in Aurora).

The story before last night's Wisconsin loss would be troubling on its own. But this morning another story came out, indicating there is serious in-fighting among Trump staffers:

Behind the scenes, Lewandowski is fighting to preserve his own power and to box out Paul Manafort, who was hired last month to lead the campaign’s delegate corralling effort. “Corey and his people know the knives are out for them,” said one source close to the campaign, referring to Manafort as a “pretty experienced in-fighter.”

On Saturday, Lewandowski went as far as to fire a young operative named James Baker, who’d been recently put in charge of its Colorado campaign—he’d arrived in the state less than 48 hours earlier—because he’d been communicating with Manafort after Lewandowski instructed him not to do so, two sources with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed.

Manafort is scheduled to meet with Trump in New York Wednesday morning and likely to threaten to quit if he doesn’t see more cooperation, according to one source. “If Manafort walks, this thing comes apart,” they said. “And some of the people close to him are ready to walk.”

The landslide loss in Wisconsin could finally prompt Trump to make changes in the campaign structure, even if Lewandowski retains his title as campaign manager. “This campaign has outgrown the team,” one high-level Trump supporter said. “Hopefully this wakes up the candidate, because Lewandowski can’t handle it from here.”

With a united and well-functioning campaign team, Trump may have a chance at getting to the necessary 1,237 delegates to claim the nomination on the first ballot. Without such a team, however, he is likely to limp into Cleveland, perhaps still with a delegate lead but facing steep odds at getting the nod.