White House

Donald Trump, tireless promoter, finds campaign formula works in the White House

President Donald Trump on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, during a meeting with automobile industry leaders.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, during a meeting with automobile industry leaders. AP

President Donald Trump simply cannot stop campaigning.

Since he entered the White House Friday, he’s shown he wants to dominate the news every minute of every day. And he’s done that.

Through his middle-of-the-night use of Twitter, his seemingly unrestrained reaction to critics and his seemingly random selection of issues, his strategy appears to be working — at least to the people he cares about.

“This sends a message of action, one his supporters will applaud,” said Doug Heye, a veteran Republican communications strategist who didn’t support Trump during the election.

The business mogul is promoting his work through his statements, his spokesman and, of course, his two Twitter accounts, even publicizing his actions in advance – much as he might his reality TV show, Celebrity Apprentice.

“It’s a flood-the-zone style of communications,” said Republican strategist Kevin Madden, who worked for 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. “The team around him understands this is the president’s style, they recognize he has a unique platform and they have built their infrastructure around him to take advantage of it.”

Here’s what a typical day is like for the nascent Trump administration:

The White House has a daily message – weakening the Affordable Care Act, withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, reviving the Keystone XL pipeline – campaign promises Trump pledged to fulfill on Day One, though some were announced on Day Three and Day Four. The wall came on Day Five.

Spreading out the announcements ensures more headlines.

Even on those days when Trump appeared to step on his own message – his visit to the CIA Saturday, for example, was overshadowed by his criticism of the media over their reports of the size of the crowds at his inauguration – the disjointed message had the effect of drawing even greater news coverage.

On Wednesday, before he announced the start to one of his most anticipated promises he made during the campaign — to build a massive wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — he tweeted that he was launching a “major investigation into voter fraud” that he claims occurred but he has not provided evidence to back up. More coverage. Ditto, his tweet on sending in the feds to solve Chicago’s murder problem.

It doesn’t seem to matter if those things are actually going to happen — or even if they are true.

“It is unprecedented in the country’s history for the president and the White House spokesman to push a lie of this magnitude about voting,” said Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “These are not random conspiracy theorists on the Internet. These are the highest officials in the land.”

The White House did not answer questions Wednesday about whether Trump consults staff before he posts his tweets, particularly about policy issues. His aides said they have come to expect the unpredictable nature of their boss.

After all, the strategy mirrors his unorthodox campaign style during the presidential campaign in which he always tried to have the last word, challenged everyone, including his own staff, and sought to influence the conversation with a barrage of tweets.

“Remember Trump’s essential, core campaign message was to do basically all of what you see immediately upon assuming the office,” said Jonathan Felts, who was a White House political director for former President George W. Bush. “He’s simply following through on it all. If he was not doing that, the articles would be about how he was not following through.” 

The political novice managed to tap into voters’ anger – with lawmakers in Washington, stagnant wages, companies sending jobs overseas and reports of terrorists crossing the border. 

Lynda Tran, a Democratic strategist who’s worked on numerous presidential races, described Trump as defensive and said he was responding to massive protests by millions of people around the globe following his rival Hillary Clinton’s overwhelming win of the popular vote in the presidential election.

“Trump . . . clearly feels under the gun to follow through on promises he made on the campaign trail – from repealing Obamacare to building a wall on the Mexican border to walking away from the TPP,” she said.

Trump promised during the campaign to accomplish many things immediately upon taking office, including canceling restrictions on energy production, altering visa programs and labeling China a currency manipulator. 

Frank Maisano, who has more than two decades years of experience in strategic communications, said it’s sometimes difficult for a president to stop campaigning and start governing.

Maisano said the atmosphere will undoubtedly change as the first 100 days pass and the intense focus on the White House will shift at least somewhat to Cabinet secretaries and agencies as they begin to delve into policies. But, he said, it will never truly end.

“He will keep the pressure on,” he said. “He’s tireless.”