Politics

ground game

A behind-the-scenes shakeup in Trump’s N.H. campaign

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump acknowledges the crowd at a rally, Wednesday, June 29, 2016, in Bangor, Maine.(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Robert F. Bukaty/AP
Donald Trump spoke at a rally Wednesday in Bangor.

When Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump returns to New Hampshire Thursday afternoon, he will see a change in his state campaign since his last trip to the Granite State just two weeks ago.

Since his June 13 trip to Manchester for a speech on national security, Trump has fired his national campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who lives in New Hampshire. Now Trump’s operation appears to be doing what seemed nearly unimaginable until recently: It is putting New Hampshire establishment Republicans in charge — no matter how critical they have been about the presumptive nominee in the past.

Signs of this shift emerged as late as Wednesday, when Trump’s New York headquarters didn’t call on the local campaign office to organize their press conference, like they did for his appearance a couple weeks ago (Trump’s New Hampshire office is filled with staff who are loyal to Lewandowski). Instead, Trump’s campaign asked the state Republican Party to manage his event. The party sent an e-mail invitation to members at 9:40 p.m. Wednesday for the 3:30 p.m. event today.

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Secondly, Trump’s team asked a seasoned New Hampshire operative, Michael Biundo, to be a local senior adviser to the campaign. Biundo knows the job, but the news was stunning given how critical he has been of Trump on social media until recently. What’s more, Biundo served as an adviser to the presidential campaigns of US Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ohio Governor John Kasich, neither of whom has a strong relationship with Trump.

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Until yesterday, Trump’s campaign continued to have a deeply strained relationship with the New Hampshire Republican Party. In the fall, Trump’s staff and local campaign chairs led a petition drive to oust the the party’s chairwoman, Jennifer Horn, because they said she was biased against them. Their reason? In an interview with The Boston Globe, Horn said Trump wouldn’t win the state’s first-in-the-nation primary because “shallow campaigns that depend on bombast and divisive rhetoric do not succeed in New Hampshire, and I don’t expect that they will now.” It was one of many examples of Horn criticizing Horn Trump’s rhetoric.

Even last month, as Horn assumed the title of state delegation chair to the national convention, the blowback from the Trump campaign was fierce. Trump’s local staff removed her from that role, as well as others she named to convention leadership positions. Citing its New Hampshire primary victory as cause, Trump’s team installed supporters in nearly every position, and the delegation is currently led by Lewandowski.

In other words, there’s no shortage of friction between these two camps. But while moves by Trump’s national campaign might appear to undercut his New Hampshire operation, there is a much simpler explanation for the sudden coordination with the state’s establishment: It needs the help.

While the official Trump headquarters is staffed with a handful of aides, the Republican National Committee has already placed roughly 25 staffers at state Republican Party headquarters to work on the presidential campaign. In other battleground states, Trump has essentially outsourced the nuts-and-bolts staff work to these RNC staffers. So despite their fractious past, they had no incentive to turn away the help beyond a personal grudge.