I've touched on this very recent "evolution" of the Trump campaign recently only in passing, but it does bear a post of its own, as does giving credit to the millionaire slumlord where credit is due. For the entire primary campaign up until a month ago, he had been "winging it" on nothing but his already inescapable fame and unbearably obnoxious "brand", billions in free, suffocating media coverage, and huge, traveling carnival, WWE-esque rallies. His campaign "brain"trust was composed of "outsider" cronies proudly ignorant of the political profession and the nuts and bolts knowledge of how to run a national political campaign. And, up until a month ago, it had not - to their inadequate knowledge - hurt them in any significant way.
Then Trump's abusive, violent, martinet ignoramus of a campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, rag-dolled a political reporter, creating a YUUUGE PR headache for the campaign on which Trump, being Trump, instinctively and defiantly doubled down. Close on the heels of that rake in the face came the emergence that Ted Cruz had the elite organization, ground game, and delegate-recruitment operation with which Trump had never bothered or sunk the dough into building, something that takes months and months to prepare, and that that had made a multi-ballot contested convention a rising possibility bordering on certainty.
In short, if Trump wanted to win, amateur hour was over, and it was time to bring in the professionals - or what he had spent the campaign up until a month ago sneering at as "lobbyists".
Not that Paul Manafort is more than a mediocre political pro (or, you know, not an asshole - he IS still working for Trump, after all); but he was a YUUUUGE step in the right direction:
Among the influence industry veterans who have been helping the campaign in recent weeks, according to sources close to the Trump campaign, are Laurance Gay, who had worked with Manafort on an effort to obtain a federal grant that one congressman called a “very smelly, sleazy business,” and Doug Davenport, whose firm’s lobbying for an oppressive Southeast Asian regime became a liability for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.
The pair join another former Manafort lobbying partner named Rick Gates, who was identified as an agent of a Ukrainian oligarch in a 2011 racketeering lawsuit that also named Manafort. And Manafort this week met with Marc Palazzo, a former lobbyist for a Koch Industries subsidiary who used to work as a communications staffer for GTECH Corporation, the controversial lottery operator, to which Gay, Davenport, Gates and Manafort all have ties....
Manafort has made a decades-long career drifting between GOP presidential politics and lucrative lobbying and consulting work. The firm he helped found developed a niche representing a roster of controversial international clients that has been described as “the torturers’ lobby.” Clients included Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko, Angolan guerrilla Jonas Savimbi, a group accused of being a front for Pakistani intelligence, and — most recently — ousted Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. In fact, the last time Manafort was intricately involved in a presidential campaign was Bob Dole’s unsuccessful 1996 bid, and he has been largely absent from GOP politics and Washington for years.
Some political pros are obviously sleazier than others. Also bear in mind that the pool of talent available to Trump, both in terms of the lateness in the schedule and the fact that his campaign is, after all, an attempted hostile takeover of the GOP, predisposing most Republican operatives and consultants against him, was limited. He had to take who he could get, and a fellow-Putin fanboy suited him just fine.
Will Trumplicans be outraged and betrayed at the perfidious specter of their "anti-establishment" hero "selling out" to "K Street" or whatever? Of course not. They're all just as big a bunch of hypocrites as he is, and far too emotionally and tribalistically invested in him to let any such trifling minutia as philosophical principles get in the way of their blind belief. As the late Oakland Raider founder and owner and AFL pioneer Al Davis used to say, "Just win, baby!" is all that matters to them.
Amusingly, the aforementioned woman-beater and profanity-laden tirade performance artist appears to have naively thought that that principle meant something, though, and he's not happy:
Manafort’s recent additions to the Trump campaign have prompted incredulous reactions among Lewandowski’s loyalists on the campaign, who have privately questioned whether Manafort understands modern presidential politics, said one operative who works with the Trump campaign.
“They said that they were going to bring in a new campaign team, but Manafort has been out of the game for so long,” said the operative. “He doesn’t have any current connections, so he’s just bringing in all his old lobbyist friends.”
Speaking from equivalent experience, I can say with confidence that a large amount of stale experience is still better than little or no experience at all (although prospective employers in the South Puget Sound region don't appear to share that wisdom). Lewandowski's balking, though, comes from self-interest rather than any true "anti-establishment" principle. He was Donald Trump's protege and right-hand man, until his right hand got him into more trouble than even his boss could tolerate, and then the rest of his incompetence got exposed. And if there's one thing that Trump cannot and will not abide (in others), it is failure.
Because Trump wants to win.
Too bad for him this belated "handwriting on the wall" moment came far too late to keep his nomination chances out of serious doubt, if not outright dashing them. But if the latter proves true, he can always run again in 2020, right? If it's as "fun" for him (and his followers) as he says it is. Who in the scattered wreckage of the GOP would be able or willing to wade through that overhyped bilgestorm again?