Evaluating The State Of Donald Trump's Presidential Campaign

Jun 21, 2016
Originally published on June 21, 2016 7:50 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's been a tough couple of weeks for the presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

He got a lot of backlash over his attacks on a judge of Mexican descent overseeing a fraud lawsuit against a former Trump business venture. Then, Trump took heat for the tweet he sent after the Orlando massacre, which was criticized for being insensitive to the victims and their families.

MARTIN: Trump's poll numbers have been slipping. And yesterday, he fired his campaign manager. That was followed last night with the release of fundraising figures that show him badly trailing the Clinton campaign. NPR's Sarah McCammon is keeping tabs on all of it. And she joins us now from New York. Good morning, Sarah.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.

MARTIN: This seems like a pretty good moment to take a step back and ask a big question. What is the state of the Trump campaign right now?

MCCAMMON: Let's start with that news that we got last night about fundraising numbers. Last month, Trump raised just $3.1 million - Hillary Clinton, 28 million. But what's even more stunning is if you look at how much money their campaigns have in the bank, Rachel. The Clinton campaign started June with $42 million on hand - Trump, just 1.3 million. So just for comparison, Ben Carson, who ended his campaign months ago, reported 1.8 million. Let me say that again. Ben Carson reported more money in his campaign account than Donald Trump. So that's stunning and very worrying for Republicans.

Beyond the money, though, the campaign structure isn't what you would expect at this stage of the game. There's a tiny communications staff, no one really doing rapid response to Hillary Clinton's attacks, few big name surrogates, not much of an organization in battleground states, no TV ad-spending, while the super PAC for Hillary Clinton has reserved more than $100 million in TV ads in battleground states.

MARTIN: But this has been Trump's whole thing, right, the ability to succeed without running a traditional campaign. And then he fires his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. How does that fit into this?

MCCAMMON: Yeah. But, you know, we're into the general election cycle now. And I think the willingness to fire Lewandowski is a big sign that things may be changing or at least a willingness to make some changes, recognition that it's time. They got along well, were really loyal to each other. But this comes in the wake of a couple of really bad weeks and falling poll numbers for Trump, which is no small thing because we know, Rachel, that he watches the polls closely.

You know, we did see him a while back bring in more staff as it became clear that he really could get the nomination. He brought on Paul Manafort, a veteran GOP strategist who's running things now. But, you know, he's also spending a lot more time raising money. Trump's schedule has been dominated lately by fundraising events, more so really than campaigning in battleground states. But as we saw last night, you know, they're at a huge disadvantage on fundraising.

MARTIN: OK. So Trump is having an interesting meeting today. He's meeting with a large group of conservative Christian leaders. This is a voting bloc that reliably has been in the Republican column. But conservative Christians have a complicated relationship with Donald Trump, right?

MCCAMMON: Yeah/. Some of them have concerns. And they've been voicing them for a while - things like his multiple divorces, some of the language he uses and his past position on issues like abortion. So they want assurances that he understands their values and issues important to them, like Supreme Court justices who share those positions. So more than 900 of them are gathering here in New York City - pastors, political activists, other leaders. It's a chance, I'm told, for Trump to answer questions and also hear from the group. It's essentially behind closed doors, although it's a lot of people. And, you know, it's by invitation only, so maybe a more honest conversation.

MARTIN: I'm presuming these people have a lot of influence, right? What would getting their support mean to him, just briefly?

MCCAMMON: You know, they're each influential in their own way. Some lead big churches or have, you know, radio or TV shows. And what they say could influence a lot of conservative Christian voters who are weighing whether or not to vote for Trump in November or maybe not vote at all.

MARTIN: NPR's Sarah McCammon following the Trump campaign from New York. Thanks so much, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.