Donald Trump has fired his quasi-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
I say "quasi-campaign manager" because Donald Trump barely has any campaign to manage. The Associated Press recently reported that Trump only has about 30 paid staffers. There are Senate candidates running more expansive operations.
The Trump quasi-campaign has tried to spin its absence of organization as a bold new strategy. "It would be disingenuous and wrongheaded to take a playbook that has been used over and over again," Trump aide Karen Giorno told the AP. "We are creating the playbook."
Giorno, in case you’re wondering, is "in charge of an 11-state Southeastern bloc including battlegrounds Florida, North Carolina and Virginia." This must make the Clinton campaign very, very happy.
Trump’s dismissal of the traditional tools of campaigning extends beyond staff. He famously laughed off the polling conducted by rival campaigns. "The networks do it for free," he said. "What the hell are they doing polling for?" He sloughed off the need for fundraising, explaining that the media’s breathless coverage of his every utterance would help him close a billion-dollar gap against Hillary Clinton. He’s barely spending money in battleground states:
Stunning --> Team Clinton has a 100% ad-spending edge in battlegrounds.— Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) June 19, 2016
In June 2012, it was 54%-46% for Obama pic.twitter.com/0odrbXFSyU
Again, this must make the Clinton campaign very, very happy.
Hillary Clinton’s secret weapon is Donald Trump
Hillary Clinton begins the presidential race with real weaknesses. Her unfavorables are extremely high. Her name on the ballot motivates Republicans to turn out to vote. Her long career in politics gives her opponents nearly endless ammunition. She’s following a two-term Democratic president amidst a softening economy.
But she also starts the presidential race with an advantage that may make up for all that: Her opponent is Donald J. Trump.
Trump is staggeringly unpopular — much more so than Clinton. As my colleague Matt Yglesias writes, it’s a strange, and easily debunked, myth that Trump’s bizarre and offensive rhetoric hasn’t hurt his candidacy: "The result of saturation-level media coverage of Trump is that he is very well-known and very unpopular. The criticism sticks."
Throughout the primary, Marco Rubio usually led Clinton in polls, and Trump always trailed her. Trump’s weakness has persisted: Clinton leads Trump by more than 7 points in the Huffington Post’s average of polls.
In addition to being staggeringly unpopular, though, Trump is also running a horrible campaign. He has no ground game to speak of. He has no advertising game to speak of. He has no national organization to speak of. He has no data and analytics organization to speak of.
Reasonable people can argue over how much of a margin a massive gap in campaign quality is likely to provide — 2 points? 5 points? — but even the most nihilistic political scientist admits campaigning has some effect on outcomes, and the difference between the effectiveness of Clinton’s campaign and the effectiveness of Trump’s campaign is likely to be the largest in modern presidential history.
So Clinton is running against an unusually weak candidate who's running a historically poor campaign. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
Firing Lewandowski suggests Trump — or possibly Trump’s children — realize he’s in a hole. Power is expected to mass around Paul Manafort now, and Manafort is a much more competent, established campaign professional than Lewandowski; this profile is a good introduction to Manafort’s competence.
But it’s hard to build a quality campaign fast, and it’s even harder when your candidate doesn’t really want a quality campaign and won’t submit to the grinding work of fundraising, building out infrastructure, recruiting great staffers, and sticking to a plan. Ultimately organizations reflect their leaders, and Trump’s quasi-campaign reflects Trump’s preferences and personality.
Which is all to say that firing Lewandowski doesn’t really fix the problem, because Trump is the actual problem. But the only person Donald Trump will never fire is himself.