Inside the Trump data bunker

trumps-plan-b
By Josh Green and Sasha Issenberg

❝ On Oct. 19, as the third and final presidential debate gets going in Las Vegas, Donald Trump’s Facebook and Twitter feeds are being manned by Brad Parscale, a San Antonio marketing entrepreneur…Parscale is one of the few within Trump’s crew entrusted to tweet on his behalf…On the wall, a poster of Julian Assange reads: “Dear Hillary, I miss reading your classified emails.”…

❝ When the debate wraps, Parscale leaps up, open laptop still in hand, and bolts from the trailer with Priebus and the rest of the senior staff to congratulate Trump as he comes off the stage. In the wings, Parscale joins Steve Bannon, Trump’s Machiavelli and campaign chairman, on leave from Breitbart News Network…and a clutch of Trump children and their spouses…

Parscale, now tweeting from his own account, celebrates the night’s haul: “HUGE 24hrs of online donations for @realDonaldTrump. 125,000+ unique donors grossing over $9,000,000! Thank you America! #MAGA.”

❝ …Almost every public and private metric suggests Trump is headed for a loss, possibly an epic one. His frustrated demeanor on the campaign trail suggests he knows it. Yet even as he nears the end of his presidential run, his team is sowing the seeds of a new enterprise with a direct marketing effort that they insist could still shock the world on Election Day.

Beginning last November, then ramping up in earnest when Trump became the Republican nominee, Jared Kushner quietly built a sprawling digital fundraising database and social media campaign that’s become the locus of his father-in-law’s presidential bid. Trump’s top advisers won’t concede the possibility of defeat, but they’re candid about the value of what they’ve built even after the returns come in — and about Trump’s desire for influence regardless of outcome. “Trump is a builder,” says Bannon, in a rare interview. “And what he’s built is the underlying apparatus for a political movement that’s going to propel us to victory on Nov. 8 and dominate Republican politics after that.”

“When we won the nomination, we decided we were going to do digital fundraising and really ramp this thing up to the next level,” says a senior official…When Bannon joined the campaign in August, Project Alamo’s data began shaping even more of Trump’s political and travel strategy — and especially his fundraising. Trump himself was an avid pupil. Parscale would sit with him on the plane to share the latest data on his mushrooming audience and the $230 million they’ve funneled into his campaign coffers. Today, housed across from a La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery along Interstate 410 in San Antonio, the digital nerve center of Trump’s operation encompasses more than 100 people, from European data scientists to gun-toting elderly call-center volunteers…

❝ Still, Trump’s reality is plain: He needs a miracle…To compensate for this, Trump’s campaign has devised another strategy, which, not surprisingly, is negative. Instead of expanding the electorate, Bannon and his team are trying to shrink it. “We have three major voter suppression operations under way,” says a senior official. They’re aimed at three groups Clinton needs to win overwhelmingly: idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans…

❝ Regardless of whether this works or backfires, setting back GOP efforts to attract women and minorities even further, Trump won’t come away from the presidential election empty-handed…Since Trump paid to build this audience with his own campaign funds, he alone will own it after Nov. 8 and can deploy it to whatever purpose he chooses. He can sell access to other campaigns or use it as the basis for a 2020 presidential run…

Whatever Trump decides, this group will influence Republican politics going forward. These voters, whom Cambridge Analytica has categorized as “disenfranchised new Republicans,” are younger, more populist and rural — and also angry, active, and fiercely loyal to Trump. Capturing their loyalty was the campaign’s goal all along. It’s why, even if Trump loses, his team thinks it’s smarter than political professionals. “We knew how valuable this would be from the outset,” says Parscale. “We own the future of the Republican Party.”

RTFA. There’s a lot of it. Josh Green and Sasha Issenberg have constructed a truly detailed blueprint of the Trump digital attack on electoral politics.

Contemptible, disgusting, certainly anti-democratic – are the qualities that leap out as the themes of the campaign, the politics of Trump, Bannon and the rest. They’ve used disaffected Republicans and Democrats to build a populist, racist, sexist juggernaut easily the equal of George Wallace’s White Citizens Council. And in an age easier to mobilize in any direction – or just for random destruction – they’re getting ready to march ahead of the cockroaches still officially in charge of the Republican Party.

What the Republicans will munch on if the Tea Party sheeple march off to Trump’s drummers is questionable. They may retain some figurehead positions, of course. Trump knows he can always count on the least-principled opportunists to back him up. Eh, Jason?

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