There are obviously a lot of Republicans who are publicly and privately upset with how Donald Trump is handling the transition from primary to general-election candidate. Most of them are unhappy with his aggressive support for religious and ethnic profiling and his modeling of prejudice in the Gonzalo Curiel incident.
Leave it to Karl Rove to get mad at Trump for how he’s running his campaign, not what he’s saying.
Specifically, Rove is furious that Trump has disrespected the importance of paid media in presidential campaigns. As someone who has devoted his career to raising and spending megabucks for mostly negative political ads from the day he left the White House, Rove probably regarded Trump’s contempt for this part of politics as blasphemy. So, the Boy Genius repaired to the L’Osservatore Romano of the devotees of the green god of political money, The Wall Street Journal, asking Trump to repent.
Mr. Trump believes that fundraising and TV advertising are overrated. “I just don’t think I need nearly as much money as other people,” he told Bloomberg. “I get so many invitations to be on television.” But consider a hypothetical: Say Hillary Clinton runs a week of TV spots in Tampa/St. Petersburg, a key media market in Florida, and Mr. Trump counters by appearing on cable shows.
Counting only adults, 314,000 viewers might see a Clinton ad during “60 Minutes” on Sunday, according to Nielsen data. Nearly 190,000 would see one during “Dancing With the Stars” on Monday; 248,000 during “NCIS” on Tuesday; and 120,000 during “Hawaii Five-0” on Friday.
Mr. Trump’s appearances on Fox News would reach only a fraction of those numbers: 82,000 adults for a segment on “The O’Reilly Factor” and 61,000 for one on “The Kelly File.” An appearance on CNN’s best-viewed evening program would reach 33,000.
So the moral is clear: Raise the money, run the ads, amen.
But Rove has more heresy to root out. He’s also upset that Trump is offloading the “ground game” to the RNC. Team Clinton, he warns, is prepared to outgun anything the national party can do unless the nominee raises some serious jack to help pay to keep up with the donkeys.
Mr. Trump’s decisions — to forgo ads, abandon his self-funding pledge and accept a big financial deficit, and turn the ground game over to the RNC — are unprecedented challenges to conventional wisdom. In 21 weeks, we will know if they were smart bets.
It should be noted that Trump’s belief that paid media and money generally are overrated in presidential (as opposed to down-ballot) general elections (as opposed to primaries) is shared by many political scientists, thanks to the massive earned media presidential candidates receive. Because nobody’s ever been better at the earned media game than Trump, it’s hardly surprising he figures that might be his best asset.
But if he’s right, there’s not much of a role in national politics for people like Karl Rove, is there? And that would be blasphemy for sure.