Quite a scoop — and from quite a source. This is coming from Howard Kurtz of Fox News, which of course has a business interest in reminding viewers that FNC is now essentially the exclusive outlet for Donald Trump interviews. They don’t call it TrumpTV for nothing!
Any theories on why Paul Manafort might want to limit media access to a guy who spent the last week ranting about whether his social-media team should or shouldn’t be borrowing Star of David images from white nationalists?
According to sources familiar with the campaign, one faction is worried that the constant rounds of interviews entail too much risk of the candidate making mistakes or fanning minor controversies, even though his mastery at driving the media agenda helped power his Republican primary victory.
A series of clashes over these and other tactical questions has caused Trump himself to openly question who is running his campaign, the sources say. And he has expressed anger when he believes his orders aren’t being followed…
Trump, who has resumed his full-throated denunciations of the media—such as calling CNN the Clinton News Network—personally vetted every TV invitation for most of the campaign. Now the staff is weeding out many requests without consulting him, the sources say, which could either be viewed as a mark of professionalization or an attempt to restrain Trump from being Trump…
Several weeks ago, high-level staffers concluded at a meeting that the boss should be limited to no more than three interviews a week, print reporters included. He wound up meeting that quota in just half a day.
He hasn’t done an interview on MSNBC in a month and a half and his last interview on CNN was in mid-June. I myself noticed his disappearance from the Sunday shows a few weeks ago in writing the weekly Sunday preview. Suddenly Trump was nowhere to be found, replaced by the duo of Manafort on one show and (while he was still with the campaign) Corey Lewandowski on another. For a guy like Trump who’s supremely narcissistic and who beat the pros in the primaries via little more than his command of the media, losing access to reporters must be baffling and infuriating. Why would his campaign not want to unleash the Trump? America loves the Trump! Republicans nominated the Trump. The Trump is master of every microphone he surveys. Holding him back and quietly canceling his interviews suggests that his own campaign team has come to view his unfiltered thoughts as more of a liability than an asset.
And that certainly can’t be true.
On the merits, there’s nothing wrong with Team Trump limiting their guy’s exposure. Even doing the occasional Hannitized interview on Fox, he’s still vastly more accessible than Hillary Clinton, who’s been gutlessly ducking press conferences for months. So long as his rallies, where he’s in total control of the message, are carried live on networks that he’s boycotting, he has no reason to expose himself to needless jeopardy from Q&As with tough journalists like Jake Tapper. Except for one thing: Trump is counting on earned media to make up the difference between him and Hillary financially. She and her Super PACs will end up raising many millions more than he will but a man who received $2 billion in media coverage in the primaries gratis can afford to be outraised and outspent. If he’s forfeiting earned media opportunities now for fear that he’ll say something stupid in interviews, though, he’s necessarily increasing the disparity between his media reach and Hillary’s. That’s worth doing only if his team has given up on the possibility of Trump reforming himself and becoming a more disciplined candidate, i.e. if they suspect he’s more likely to damage himself than help himself in interviews. I don’t know what other conclusion can be gleaned from Kurtz’s report.
Speaking of fundraising, some Republicans tells David Drucker that Trump’s $51 million haul in June, while a vast improvement over May, still holds ominous signs for the campaign:
Trump financed his primary campaign with his own money from his personal coffers. He did not begin soliciting donations until late May.
That means that donors, both small and wealthy, were fresh and potentially eager to give, having not been exhausted or burned out by a series of previous “asks” for money during the past year…
From that standpoint, Trump raising $25 million from 22 events that, according to the campaign, stretched from late May through June 30, looks tepid…
“Twenty-two events raising $25 million? On the surface that looks pretty weak considering how much they can accept into the joint account,” said a Republican fundraising strategist, who, like others, requested anonymity in order to speak candidly.
Donors can give as much as $449,400 to the joint fundraising committee organized by Trump and the RNC. Assume there were 50 rich Republicans at each of the 22 events in June; in order to get to $25 million you’re talking about an average donation of not quite … $23,000. If few of those donors had donated before and they’re all aware that Trump’s facing a huge fundraising disadvantage against Hillary, there’s no obvious reason for them to lowball their donation except for lack of enthusiasm for the candidate. See now why earned media (and small donors) are so important for Trump? This new three-interviews-a-week policy comes at a cost. Which is why it probably won’t last much longer.