Does ‘self contained’ Trump campaign need local GOP support?

Posted at 5:54 PM, Dec 22, 2015

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — None of the party officers for the Kent County GOP attended Monday night's rally for Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

And no one from the Donald Trump campaign asked them for help to coordinate the big event.

"It wasn't a snub, it was just a unique circumstance," according to John Inhulsen, chairman for the Kent GOP.

When previous Republican candidates came to town, the Kent GOP facilitated the visit and hosted the event, Inhulsen said. But Trump's campaign is unlike anything they've seen in long time.

"They (Trump campaign) like to control everything from the top down," Inhulsen said. "He's very self contained. It's not novel, it just hasn't been seen in awhile."

When pressed, Inhulsen said Kent GOP supports Trump, as it does every Republican candidate in the primary.

"This is the primaries, we're not in a position to pick and choose a candidate yet," he said. "If that candidate winds up being Mr. Trump, we will support him and do our best to get him over the finish line."

But even Inhulsen questions whether Trump's message will translate into action.

"He's undoubtedly tapped into anger on both sides, but is the anger the most effective way to communicate and accomplish change," he asked.

There's no denying if you bring him, the crowds will follow and that was evident by the record-setting crowd that packed inside the DeltaPlex Monday night to see the bombastic and outspoken presidential front-runner. DeltaPlex owner Joel Langlois confirmed to FOX 17 the Monday night rally attracted the biggest crowd in the venue's history, exceeding the 7,500 seat capacity by at least 1,000 people.

A spokesperson for the Trump campaign couldn't provide an exact number, but said final attendance was closer to 9,000.

"There's a movement happening," Trump told supporters during his first West Michigan visit. "We're going to take our country back."

But by Tuesday morning, it's something elseTrump said during his visit that began to grab headlines nationally.

"She was going to beat — she was favored to win — and she got schlonged, she lost, I mean she lost," Trump said while talking about Hillary Clinton, using a Yiddish word for a man's penis.

But does it matter?

After all, Trump continues to be one of the only candidates running for president relying on a majority of his own money to fund his campaign. It's a point he touted during his Walker rally.

"Certainly he is not beholden to a donor base, and he is not beholden to a party establishment," said Doug Koopman, professor of political science at Calvin College.

But what does a so-called 'self contained' candidate mean for the future of this 2016 race and the Republican party? Koopman and Inhulsen both predict the billionaire mogul's strategy will have to change as he nears the general election.

"In a general election you need to have a ground presence in the states you want to win in, and you have to start relying on local support from your party," Inhulsen said. "He doesn’t really have that yet.”

With primary season beginning in just about a month, Koopman says it will be a crucial time for Trump's campaign, given some of his closest competitors already have extensive local infrastructures in place to mobilize support.

“When it gets down to one or two others, then he might be vulnerable," he said. "If you imagine Ted Cruz as the last person standing, Cruz has a strong ground game all the way through the system, so (Trump) is a bit relying on a multiple number of opponents and his name ID and ability to get hold of the media.”

It appears Trump might already be planning his move toward a stronger ground game. Just hours before he took the stage at the DeltaPlex, Trump announced his first campaign hire in Michigan.

While Trump still leads among his Republican competitors, a new Quinnipiac poll released Dec. 22 shows Donald Trump's lead over Ted Cruz has shrunk to just 4 percentage points. It's the second national poll after last week's Republican debate.

Trump wins 28% support, with Cruz nipping at his heels with 24%. Marco Rubio sits at 12% support, Ben Carson with 10%, Chris Christie with 6% and Jeb Bush with 4%.

But, 50% of American voters also told Quinnipiac that they would be "embarrassed" to have Trump elected president of the U.S.

"He is a divisive candidate," Koopman said. “Part of it is he’s voicing their frustration with politics as a whole. Part of it is he’s very entertaining. He’s someone who is hard to ignore and for a certain group of people it’s entertaining to watch the Washington establishment feel uncomfortable.”

Michigan's primary is March 8.