Not only is Donald Trump an unconventional candidate, he’s got a campaign operation that turns the conventional wisdom of electoral politics on its head.
While Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton boasts an army of more than 350 paid staffers, Trump’s operation fields less than a tenth that number.
It includes a coterie of about a dozen paid staff operating out of the campaign headquarters at Trump Tower on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, the same building where Trump lives and runs his real estate empire.
His team has no pollster, fundraisers, or media consultant, and only announced its first full-time, big-name policy adviser this week.
The rest of the 25 or so paid members of the Trump campaign are mostly in the early-voting states of New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina, states where the billionaire businessman-turned-reality TV host is ahead in polls, leaving the Republican establishment scratching its head.
“Like the rest of Mr Trump’s campaign, we’re not following the playbook,” said Trump’s recently hired national political director, Michael Glassner, who worked for Sarah Palin’s vice-presidential campaign.
“So what may have been the typical profile for somebody to run a primary or caucus campaign, we’re willing to look beyond that, find the people who are the best and the smartest.”
The small-scale outfit stands in sharp contrast to Clinton’s operation across the river in Brooklyn, where her team, learning from President Barack Obama’s successes, has built a data-centric campaign led and staffed by some of the Democratic Party’s best and brightest.
Trump’s chief Republican contender, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, is also experimenting with his operating structure, offloading many of the traditional responsibilities of a campaign to a super PAC led by a longtime Bush confidant.
His team nonetheless has a sprawling headquarters in a secure building in Miami.
Following a series of staffing shake-ups and high-profile departures, Trump’s campaign is now effectively run by two men: Himself and campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, a constant presence at his side.
The Trump operation is showing that the “typical campaign” run by presidential candidates doesn’t work, Lewandowski said in a recent interview.
“This has been an atypical campaign from the beginning. And it works and it is working and he has massive amounts of support,” he said.
The growing team so far consists of a mishmash of well-respected and connected early-state insiders and newcomers who appear to be just out of college or who have never worked on a national or even statewide campaign.
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