Breaking: Trump Has No Campaign Manager

Kellyanne Conway, new campaign manager for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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This is far from the biggest problem plaguing Donald Trump’s campaign. But as we get into the thick of the fall campaign, it’s worth noting. Kellyanne Conway now carries the label campaign manager. But that does not appear to be what she’s doing. Campaign Managers seldom make many press appearances. Frequently they’re almost totally invisible to the public. In part that’s because it’s a different skill set. But the bigger issue is that being campaign manager requires a huge investment of time. You simply don’t have time to do the job while making constant TV appearances – especially self-destructive, or at least campaign self-destructive appearances like Conway’s appearance on Rachel Maddow’s show.

In effect, Conway appears to be functioning as some mix of national press secretary and chief surrogate. In the later case, that person will sometimes have a title like “strategist” of some such. Indeed, ‘strategist’ does seem like the role she’s taken on. Simple point: an actual campaign manager doesn’t have time to do this much television – especially with a campaign that seems to be mammothly behind on numerous elements of ground operation, get out the votes efforts and more.

This isn’t a matter of titles. It’s like having a driver and a chef. They are two different jobs. One person might possibly be capable of doing both. But no one can do both at the same time. If the driver is cooking a meal they can’t also be driving the car. If they’re trying to, something tragic will definitely happen.

So who’s serving as Campaign Manager? Steve Bannon has the title of CEO.

It’s worth noting, political campaign’s don’t have “CEOs”. In a political context it’s a made up title – presumably made up because “campaign manager” wasn’t available and they released the Bannon/Conway news before they got around to telling Paul Manafort he was fired.

Maybe he is de facto campaign manager? Maybe. But probably not.

I have no idea what Bannon is spending his time doing. Reporters covering the inner workings of the campaign might. He’s done various jobs in his life that require significant organizational skill. As far as I know, he’s never run a political campaign before. At the presidential level, it’s never a first time job.

What does this all mean? There are many campaign titles that are fuzzy and potentially meaningless. But there are many tasks that are specific, concrete and critical. Whatever label is applied to them, they are jobs that need to get done or else things go wildly wrong.

That’s where the Trump camp is right now. So beyond the impulse control deficit and other deficiencies of the candidate, critical parts of running a national campaign aren’t being tended to – having a person in charge of running the campaign, coordinating communications strategy, organizing field operations. As we get into the meat of the campaign, that will start showing up in running disasters, mishaps and discovery that various tasks were simply never done.

Of course, it’s theoretically possible that under different titles this work is being done by people we don’t see. But all the evidence suggests precisely the opposite. This is how you end up announcing a major policy address on the campaign’s central issue, abruptly canceling the address, then having the candidate pull the plug on a central campaign agenda item and then a couple days later try to plug it back in.

Why are the people charged with these tasks not doing them? I can’t know directly. Part of it is likely inexperience with high level campaign work. A bigger part is likely that the key players are focused on future career opportunities.

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