Trump Thinks He Can Win in November on the Strength of Free Media Alone

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Donald Trump Holds News Conference In Jupiter, Florida
Reality star.Photo: Joe Raedle/2016 Getty Images

Last month, Donald Trump pledged to raise $1 billion for his general election campaign. Since then, he’s held only two major fundraising events. And on Wednesday, he told Bloomberg that he feels no particular urgency to pick up the pace.

There’s no reason to raise that,” Trump told the outlet, when reminded of his $1 billion goal. “I just don’t think I need nearly as much money as other people need because I get so much publicity. I get so many invitations to be on television. I get so many interviews, if I want them.”

This is bad news for anyone who wants to “make America great again.” Donald Trump needs money to win the White House. As MSNBC reported earlier this week, the GOP nominee doesn’t really have a campaign yet: There’s no Trump 2016 communications staff, no rapid-response director, no data operation for targeting receptive voters, and a limited roster of campaign surrogates. The candidate appears to be handling most of his own event planning and press relations. Free media will not compensate for these deficiencies; in fact, it can make them more glaring, as it has throughout this past week.

The GOP nominee got plenty of airtime over the last ten days. But he spent nearly all of it reminding voters that:

1. Mexican-Americans don’t like him.

2. He is currently being sued for fraud.

Throughout the primary season, the media’s saturation coverage of Trump was driven by his penchant for improvising every speech and interview, a habit that produced an endless stream of offensive and/or bizarre pronouncements. But while ramblings broadcast straight from the id of a racist billionaire may please a plurality of GOP primary voters, they don’t play that well with the general public. Donald Trump is more unpopular with Americans today than he was before he launched his presidential bid. This is why Republicans have shown so little tolerance for Trump’s race-baiting this past week — and why Trump spent the final night of primary season chained to a teleprompter.

If Trump becomes a disciplined candidate, he’ll get less free media. If he doesn’t, he’ll get free media that hurts him. Regardless, even positive cable news coverage is no substitute for a well-funded campaign staff and data operation. Assuming one’s goal is to win the presidency, rather than to amplify the visibility of one’s brand at minimal personal cost.