Lost in last week’s firehose of breaking White House news was President Trump’s 2020 re-election announcement, made on Tuesday, Feb. 27.
Providing some historical context, with 980 days before Election Day, Trump broke the record for the earliest an incumbent has ever announced. President Obama previously held the record at 582 days.
It was “980 days” that piqued my curiosity since, calculated in political dog years, that equates to 500 years. Given that Trump prides himself on being his own master political strategist, I set out on a mission to find the real reason for his historically early re-election announcement.
My plan of attack was to ask six experienced GOP operatives, knowing that among them the real reason was bound to emerge. Two of the operatives agreed to be quoted by name with four asking that their names be withheld. Here is what I was told this week.
Let’s begin with sunny optimism from Florida’s Republican National Committeeman, Peter Feaman. Besides being Florida’s RNC representative, Feaman was a member of the Electoral College and in late 2016 wrote about his experiences as Trump elector.
Feaman said that the real reason Trump announced so early was, “To let any Republican who might be thinking about running in 2020 know that, ‘I’m not going anywhere. I’m running again, and you better bring your A game.’”
(That means YOU, John Kasich and Jeff Flake, I thought after reading Peter’s text message.)
Next is Rick Tyler, currently an MSNBC political analyst and a frequent guest on the popular show, “Morning Joe.” Tyler is a veteran GOP communications strategist who was a longtime spokesman for Newt Gingrich and Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign spokesman until February 2016.
Tyler put Trump’s “real reason” in a wider context, saying, “It’s simply just a droplet in the torrent of information and misinformation coming out of the White House to distort, distract or deflect.”
Moving on to the prominent GOP strategists who requested anonymity in order to answer the “real reason” question, one said, “It’s never too early to start planning a billion-dollar campaign. Trump will need every day and every dollar!”
Another wrote: “Classic Trump flipping the script. During perhaps the worst week of his presidency when it appeared everything around him was melting down completely, what better time to send a message of confidence that things are so great he’s running for re-election.”
Then came the call I was most anticipating, from a GOP strategist who often knows the “real reasons” behind all of Trump’s actions. The strategist explained:
“Trump’s re-election committee was filed with the Federal Election Commission on Inauguration Day 2017. This [Feb. 27] announcement has no legal authority or significance whatsoever. The reason they announced – it was on the same day that the restrictions on Jared Kushner’s security clearance were announced – is that Brad Parscale is Jared’s boy. The significance of this announcement is not about Trump’s re-election but bolstering a message about Jared – that he is not weakened and will run the 2020 campaign if there is one. That is what this is really about.”
The strategist continued:
“There is nothing here that legally binds the president to run again, really nothing new here; it was a PR stunt.”
After that conversation, I checked into the time of Trump’s announcement compared to the breaking news that Kushner was losing his high-security clearance.
First, at 10:05 a.m., Drudge Report posted its famous “red siren” with the headline:
“TRUMP: I’M IN FOR 2020! NAMES CAMPAIGN MANAGER”
Then, at 3:58 p.m., came the news alert announcing that Jared Kushner’s security clearance had been downgraded from Interim Top Secret to Interim Secret.
The timing is intriguing. Trump announces his re-election and Kushner is rewarded with a 2020 campaign manager who is 100 percent loyal to him hours before Kushner’s access to highly classified material is downgraded.
There could be a connection between the two announcements.
My mission was almost accomplished when the sixth GOP strategist responded to my “real reason” question saying that, “Trump announced early just because he likes to create chaos since acting unpredictably keeps everyone off balance.”
So what did I learn from six GOP strategists about the “real reasons” Trump announced 980 days before Election Day? The most intriguing of course was that the re-election announcement was a “PR stunt” to bolster the power position of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. That left me thinking that perhaps Trump sees the 2020 campaign as a “safe space” for Kushner to land after he leaves or is forced out of the White House.
In fact, all that reinforces what I wrote earlier about how Trump prides himself on being his own master political strategist, with these family machinations helping to explain the “real reason” behind Trump’s historically early re-election announcement.