Trump’s California Head Fake

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California on June 02, 2016.
No, Trump isn't really contesting California, and if he did, he'd get clobbered anyway.Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

It’s the sort of thing you say during a primary that you don’t really mean and hope no one remembers later: Just before the June 7 California primary, Donald Trump promised he’d be back in the general election to contest the state for the GOP. Janet Hook offered the obvious skeptical reaction:

Mr. Trump has said he wants to contest a number of states Republicans have lost since the 1980s, including Oregon and New York. Yet California is probably the longest shot among his targets. The latest Wall Street Journal/Marist/NBC News poll of California found that Mrs. Clinton outpolls him 55%-31%; her rival Sen. Bernie Sanders beats Mr. Trump 62%-28%.

No GOP presidential candidate has won the state since 1988. Since then, the statewide political terrain has become so inhospitable to conservatives that most GOP candidates don’t even try. The Republican National Committee, upon which Mr. Trump intends to rely heavily for help in the general election, doesn’t even have a state director in California.

It’s the sort of thing you say during a primary that you don’t really mean and hope no one remembers later: Just before the June 7 California primary, Donald Trump promised he’d be back in the general election to contest the state for the GOP. Janet Hook offered the obvious skeptical reaction:

So yeah, the Cali talk looked like the usual Trump braggadocio. But lo and behold, Team Trump has now announced an initiative aimed at building a huge, beautiful ground game in the state, per Sam Stein:

Donald Trump’s campaign is launching a venture called the Trump Leadership Initiative fellowship program to ramp up its organization in key states. But at least one of the states where Trump is organizing could best be described as a long shot.

In an email sent out by Donald J. Trump for President Inc., the campaign seeks volunteers and fellows based in California, with a seminar being held in Stanton on July 13.

Trump, apparently, believes he can play in the Golden State. The fellows program, the email reads, will be “the backbone of the Trump strategy to launch the largest, earliest, and most diverse ground operation in California history.”

Sounds impressive, eh? As with everything connected to Trump, it’s a good idea to look beneath the packaging. Politico suggests RLI is nothing more than a rebranding of an RNC program:

[I]n a sign of the Trump campaign’s reliance on the Republican National Committee for the nuts and bolts of its campaign, the email directs supporters to an Eventbrite page promoting a training session for the Republican Leadership Institute, the party’s existing program. The page does not mention Trump, suggesting that rather than being run by the campaign, the Trump fellowship is an arrangement akin to the businessman’s commercial licensing deals, in which he puts his name on services administered by third parties.

So the whole Trump initiative sure looks like a head fake.