Why the normal rules of campaign spending don’t apply to Trump

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JUDY WOODRUFF: So, now let’s turn to Politics Monday with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, Tamara Keith of NPR.

So, Amy and Tam, let’s talk about what Matea was just reporting.

Amy, when you hear these numbers and you see what Donald Trump is spending, what Hillary Clinton is spending money on, what does that tell you about the state of these campaigns?

AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Well, I think Matea put it quite well.

We’re just dealing with two very different theories of the case here. And the Donald Trump campaign is, he’s operating — it’s like in a parallel universe, where the normal rules of campaigning don’t apply. You don’t need staff. You don’t need advertising, that your megaphone being this media coverage is going to be enough to do that.

But it’s clear that that’s not really working anymore. And you can see it in these battleground states, especially states where Hillary Clinton has been spending a great deal of money. Donald Trump is falling behind, in some cases, falling so far behind that the Clinton campaign now is saying, look, we have a state like Virginia — that’s a battleground state — Colorado, a battleground state, they’re not going to advertise there anymore because they feel so confident with their lead in those states.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Tam, it’s interesting that you’re able to say something like this, this early. I realize it’s November. It’s two-and-a-half months away, but it’s still — there is still time to go in this campaign.

TAMARA KEITH, NPR: Yes, and the Clinton campaign does point out that they could reverse course and start running ads in those states.

But they have been since June really pushing this message very hard that Donald Trump is — quote — “temperamentally unfit,” that he shouldn’t have his finger near the button. They’re out with a new ad on that topic again today.

They have really been driving that message. And, you know, I went to a Donald Trump event last week and was talking to his supporters, and they’d all seen Hillary Clinton’s ads.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Huh.

AMY WALTER: Yes.

And even building on Matea’s thing, the group called Open Secrets, which also looks at campaign spending, their analysis found that the RNC now has less in the bank at this point in the campaign than they have in the last three elections. So, 2004, 2008, 2012, they had more money in the bank at this time than they do now.

The DCCC, which is the House arm, fund-raising arm for the Democrats, outraised House Republicans in July by three times as much. So this isn’t just about the Trump campaign. This could trickle down into the others as well.

TAMARA KEITH: And what is notable about those RNC numbers is that Donald Trump is leaning so heavily on the RNC to do most of the basic fundamentals of a campaign. And the RNC has less money than it’s had in the past.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, I want to quickly move on to another issue that has been bubbling up again.

On CNN yesterday, Trump’s new campaign manager, Kellyanne, was asked whether Trump, as president, for push for deportation forces — this is a term he has used — to remove undocumented immigrants from the United States. Conway said — quote — “That is to be determined.”

But it was something that Trump had called for previously.

So, on FOX News, in a phone interview this morning, Trump was asked whether he has changed his mind.

DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: I will tell you, we’re dealing with people. We have to be very firm. We have to be very, very strong when people come in illegally. We have a lot of people that want to come in through the legal process. It’s not fair for them.

And we’re working with a lot of people in the Hispanic community to try and come up with an answer.

QUESTION: So, you’re not flip-flopping?

DONALD TRUMP: No, I’m not flip-flopping. We want to come up with really fair, but firm answer. It has to be very firm.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, later today at a union convention in Las Vegas, Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine told the people there they shouldn’t be swayed by Trump’s new talk of a firm, but fair immigration plan.

SEN. TIM KAINE, Vice Presidential Nominee: He’s not changing his policies, not by an inch.

He is still going to have the deportation force. He is still going to have separate families. He says he’s not flip-flopping on immigration. That’s what his campaign says. But we can’t afford to be tricked by Trump. This deportation thing is just another one. He is saying that he will try to deport people in a humane way, whatever that means. It’s just wrong.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Amy, what is going on here? What do we think is the thinking in Trump’s mind?

AMY WALTER: Yes.

You know, it’s clear from listening to his campaign surrogates and even listening to Trump in these last couple of days, he understands there’s a softening that needs to happen around some of these issues, especially something like mass deportation of 11 million immigrants.

But it’s also clear that it’s really late in the game to change people’s perceptions of him. I’m sure you see this, hear the same thing. If you sit with a group of voters and ask them, what do you know about Donald Trump, the first thing they will say is the wall. The second thing they will say is a ban on Muslims.

Having a deportation, having this fight over deportation, I don’t think, is going to change the basic perception that voters have of Donald Trump.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It sounds like there is some kind of battle going on, though, inside the Trump camp, Tamara, because earlier today we were told that he was going to make a speech on immigration. And now we learn it’s not going to happen this week.

TAMARA KEITH: Right, and that maybe it’s still a work in progress.

I think that it will be hard to know exactly what his position is or whether it’s changed on immigration until we hear that speech, and even once we do hear the speech, it may be hard to know precisely what the policy proposal is.

He has talked about a deportation force before, and then said it would be humane, they could take their family with them, the citizen members of their family with them.

So, at this point, it’s really not clear to me whether there is movement happening or not.

AMY WALTER: And who it’s aimed at.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.

AMY WALTER: Some of this is aimed at making those white college suburban voters who have been moving away from Donald Trump more comfortable with him and his rhetoric.

But, at the same time, why those voters, especially if you talk to a lot of women voters who live in those suburban areas, the number one concern they have about Donald Trump is his temperament and the idea of him as commander in chief, which is why Hillary Clinton campaign out today making a very clear statement about his temperament and his fitness for office with the concept that Tam mentioned. Do you really want this guy with his finger on the button?

The campaign ends — the ad ends with the sound of jet fighters is this the risk — basically saying, is this the risk you want to take?

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, meanwhile, the immigration story continues boiling.

For Hillary Clinton’s part, Tam, though, the e-mail story keeps bubbling. And there are three different strands of it today, what appears to be the difference she’s had with former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is saying that he thinks the Clinton camp is trying to pin the e-mail problem on him because she told the FBI that she got the idea for personal — using personal e-mail from General Powell.

Then you have got two other stories that the State Department is going to be releasing 15,000 previously undisclosed e-mails sometime in October, and then another strand of e-mails today having to do with the Clinton Foundation exchanging notes with Clinton’s aide.

Is this just destined to be with us until Election Day?

TAMARA KEITH: You think it will stop then?

(LAUGHTER)

TAMARA KEITH: Right. I don’t think it’s going to stop with Election Day.

AMY WALTER: I agree.

TAMARA KEITH: On the Colin Powell thing, he has reportedly said: I told her that I used my AOL account. That worked better.

He, by no means — nobody is arguing that he said, go put a server in your basement. So, you know, there is that.

Judicial Watch, which is a conservative group that has been looking for problems for Hillary Clinton, has been releasing a steady stream of e-mails. And some of this is part of that.

And there is this question that keeps coming up about the Clinton Foundation and the relationship between staff at the Clinton Foundation and staff at the State Department who worked for Hillary Clinton. What the Clinton campaign would say in response to all of that is that there is no evidence the she did favors for anyone, that Secretary Clinton did.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Amy, the bottom line is, does this hurt her?

AMY WALTER: Right.

It keeps coming back to, well, two things. If you’re going to pin something on somebody, first, make sure they know that you are going to do that. And, second, make sure they have a buy-in. Right? You probably should do both those things.

But the second is, we just live in a world that’s very different from the way it was 20 or 30 years ago in the way that people view institutions and the sense of distrust and dysfunction about whether it’s about government, whether it’s about corporations, whether it’s about the media.

And so any appearance of impropriety is going to be taken very, very seriously. The issue now — or the watchword really is transparency, authenticity. Those are things that have been missing from the Clinton campaign and from, quite frankly the way that Hillary Clinton has done her job as secretary of state, and then the Clinton Global Initiative from the very beginning.

So, the expectations are very different, and they’re not meeting those expectations.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Some of these themes just keep on popping up again and again.

AMY WALTER: It’s exactly right. If you think we’re going to see the end it — it’s not.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, we thank you.

AMY WALTER: Thank you.

TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.

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