In its effort to rally behind Donald Trump as the presumptive nominee, the Republican Party is embracing a new messaging strategy: None of the terrible things Trump has said or done matter to anybody.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said as much Sunday morning. On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Priebus about the Saturday New York Times story cataloging multiple times Trump has mistreated women in private. “Does that bother you?” Wallace asked.
“Well, you know, a lot of things bother me, Chris,” he replied, “and obviously I’m the wrong person to be asking that particular question.” When Wallace pointed out that he was the chairman of the party and this was the nominee, Priebus continued, “What I would say is we’ve been working on this primary for over a year, Chris, and I’ve got to tell you. I think that all these stories that come out — and they come out every couple weeks — people just don’t care.
“I don’t think Donald Trump — and his personal life — is something that people are looking at and saying, ‘Well, I’m surprised that he’s had girlfriends in the past.’ It’s not what people look at Donald Trump for, so I think the traditional playbook and analysis really don’t apply.”
On ABC’s This Week, Priebus repeated almost the identical line when also challenged about Trump refusing to release his tax returns and a recent Washington Post report that Trump pretended to be his own press person. “After a year of dealing with this primary one-on-one… I don’t think the traditional playbook applies, John. We’ve been down this road for a year, and it doesn’t apply. He’s rewritten the playbook.”
He added, “People don’t look at Donald Trump as to whether or not he releases his taxes or what this story was of 30 years ago. People look at Donald Trump and say, ‘Is this person going to cause an earthquake in Washington, D.C. and make something happen?’ That is it. That’s how he is being judged by the American people, so all these things that we’ve been analyzing for a year and that Mitt Romney’s obsessing over, it hasn’t done a thing.”
Moments later, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who has endorsed Trump and advises him on national security issues, echoed the same sentiment. “People will ask those questions. They’ve got 20 more more — they’ve got hundreds, I suppose — people digging into everything he’s done for all these years. But people have not expected purity on his part. What they’re concerned about — they’re deeply concerned about — is this somebody strong enough to take on Washington? Will he challenge the establishment?”
Though Priebus also said that he only knows these stories because of the articles he’s read, an apparent attempt to cast at least a shade of doubt on their validity, he didn’t outright challenge the stories that are out there about Trump. But by acknowledging that he didn’t think voters cared about this story, he tacitly was admitting that the party didn’t either.
Trump for his part, blasted the New York Times story as a “lame hit piece,” claiming that “they found nothing” because “all are impressed with how nicely I have treated women.”