Charles Laffiteau’s Bigger Picture (June 2019)
2019-06-01 13:41:46 -
World News

Last time I touted the significance of Beto O’Rourke’s decision to hire Obama campaign veteran Jen O’Malley Dillon, the first woman ever recruited to run an American presidential campaign. But Beto didn’t stop there. In addition to hiring seven staffers who had also worked on Beto’s Texas Senate campaign, Beto and Jen also took on board seasoned veterans of the Obama presidential campaign such as Lise Clavel (as states director), and Lauren Brainerd (as national organising director).


Clavel was the Virginia state director for Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, while Brainerd was the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s field director in 2018. Prior to their hiring, Beto and Jen had succeeded in recruiting President Obama’s widely praised delegate selection director, Jeff Berman, as senior advisor for delegate strategy. They also hired the creative director of the progressive Democratic super-PAC Priorities USA, Rob Flaherty, as their campaign’s all-important digital director.


As for the other members of the ‘Gang of Six’, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren all appeared to have a good month in terms of improved polling, better fundraising and more media attention. Biden has solidified his front-runner status by more than doubling his lead over Bernie Sanders from seven percentage points at the end of April to a more robust 17-point gap in the latest national polls. For her part, Warren also improved her standing in the national polls by a half, from 6.5% on 28 April to 9.8% at the end of May.


Buttigieg’s polling was surprisingly strong at six to seven per cent of Democratic voters, thanks to the yeoman work of his chief communications advisor, Lis Smith. Smith previously worked on President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign as his director of rapid response. As Buttigieg’s chief publicist, Lis garnered favourable coverage of her client by setting up lots of one-on-one meetings with the ‘Gang of 500’ political reporters and pundits who shape America’s political news in the weeks before he announced his candidacy.


However, Buttigieg is also savvy enough to know that it’s extremely difficult to maintain that favourable political buzz, because those same political reporters will also want to see proof that the candidate of the moment is also viable. They want to see evidence that the candidate can pull together a national organisation and raise hefty sums of money. So, Buttigieg’s focus between now and the end of June is to attend as many fundraisers with wealthy donors as time will allow.


But since President Donald Trump is about to make his first and likely only visit to Ireland during his presidency, it’s time for me to turn my attention to him and his upcoming jaunt to Europe. While Trump would probably beg to differ, May was not a very good month for him, and I don’t see any evidence that the upcoming summer months will be any better. A federal judge just stopped work on Trump’s wall using Pentagon funds and a New York Times analysis of Trump’s taxes showed he lost over a billion dollars from 1985 to 1994.


Given the president’s inability to get his wall built, and lower court rulings against him in his ongoing legal battles over the release of his tax returns to Democrats in Congress, it’s not a surprise that Trump would prefer to be out of the country for a while. The trip will draw media attention away from his legal woes thanks to the pomp and circumstance that surrounds a visit with British royalty, for one. Trump hopes a visit to France to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day will also garner some good publicity.


But make no mistake: the sole purpose of Trump’s visit to Ireland is to promote his hotel and golf resort in Doonberg, Co Clare. In fact, the meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Shannon Airport is a compromise designed to spare them both the embarrassment of not meeting in a proper capacity when Trump visits Ireland.


Although the Trump Organization has trimmed its losses in the last two years, the Doonberg hotel and golf resort has still lost more than €7m in the five years since Trump purchased the property. These are losses that the Trump Organization can ill afford given the downturn in demand it’s experiencing at its resort properties. Both Nascar and the PGA have moved events from Trump’s Doral golf resort to other venues, while over a dozen charities have also canceled their events at his Mar-a-Lago club.


The values of Trump’s real estate holdings in New York City are also falling thanks to the bad publicity surrounding his presidency. Over that past two years since Trump took office, CityRealty data shows that prices per square foot in Trump’s office buildings and condo towers in New York City have fallen an average of nine per cent a year to their lowest levels in five years. During that same period, the value of other Manhattan condos has risen 29 per cent.


It appears Trump is attempting to recoup some of his losses by spending taxpayer’s dollars to stay at his own Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago resorts for five of the last 30 months. We can now add Trump’s Doonberg resort to that list.


Charles Laffiteau is a US Republican from Dallas, Texas pursuing a career in public service. He previously lectured on Contemporary US Business & Society at DCU from 2009-2011 and pursued a PhD in Public Policy and Political Economy.

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