How Donald Trump rewired the 2016 campaign – Politico

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

In three short months, the real estate mogul has altered nearly every aspect of the GOP presidential race and left rivals like Jeb Bush scrambling to respond.

This is not the race Jeb Bush expected to run. The plan was to craft a policy-focused campaign, with scores of policy aides hired to help him articulate meaty ideas on the trail and distinguish himself as a policy-oriented candidate. He expected to run “joyfully” and with a message of optimism.

So much for that.

As summer turns to fall, the former Florida governor has been forced to retool his campaign, incorporating a growing list of attack lines against Donald Trump into his stump speech and, according to those close to the campaign, studiously preparing for a second debate that will likely shape up as a clash between him and the real estate mogul. While Bush still talks about campaigning “with joy” in his heart, with his campaign now shuffling its budget, those involved say it’s likely that some resources from other parts of the campaign will be redirected to looking into Trump’s record.

It’s yet another measure of how Trump has rewired the race in the three short months since he announced his campaign. It’s hard to overstate his effect, or even to find a historical analogue – with his outsized personality and outsider message, Trump has sent his GOP rivals careening in directions they couldn’t have imagined, forced them to rethink their strategies and tactics, and altered expectations about the duration of the primary season. He’s even managed to unsettle the politically active billionaires who are currently sizing up the contest.

Trump’s anti-establishment candidacy isn’t the sole reason why the GOP field has been reordered since he joined the race, but he’s the proximate cause.

“There is a fairly delusional bubble from Washington, D.C., powered by the wishful thinking among the party establishment that this will all magically dissipate,” said Steve Schmidt, a GOP strategist who guided John McCain’s 2008 campaign. “This is a movement. The leader is a master showman and master communicator who is in complete and absolute command of every facet of the political battlefield.”

Where his rivals once expected him to flame out before the first vote was cast next year, the consensus among the nearly two dozen campaign staffers and GOP operatives interviewed for this story is that he’ll be a force long past the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1. The old theory of the case – that the nomination would ultimately narrow down to Bush and one other candidate – is out the window.

“It was going to be Jeb and someone else; now a lot of people think it’ll be Trump and someone else, maybe two others,” a strategist for one Republican campaign said.

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