Vrijdag 30/09/2022

New York Times

On Republican Campaign Trail: slow and steady may win the race

De Republikeinse presidentskandidaten John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul op het podium bij aanvang van een debat in het Milwaukee Theatre, in Milwaukee. Beeld AP
De Republikeinse presidentskandidaten John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul op het podium bij aanvang van een debat in het Milwaukee Theatre, in Milwaukee.Beeld AP

Donald Trump mocks his opponents as "low energy," but his own campaign travel schedule is relatively sleepy: He left his home base of New York for only 17 public events during a 30-day stretch.

Steve EderJeremy W. Peters en Kitty Bennett

After several months of doing mostly pop-in, pop-out visits, Marco Rubio recently made a five-day swing through Iowa - the longest single stretch he had spent there. But in the middle of it he took a Sunday afternoon off to take in some football.

Ben Carson is not only running for president, but he is trying to sell books, too. So for the first five days of November he ditched the campaign trail to go on tour to promote his latest one.

A hectic and draining travel schedule crammed with visits to cafes and community center basements, shaking as many hands as possible, has long been a necessary staple on the road to becoming president.

Not this time around.

A day-by-day analysis of how the top-tier Republicans seeking the White House spent the crucial month of November reveals that, in this campaign, a strenuous itinerary does not necessarily translate to robust poll numbers. Jeb Bush, whose failure to connect with voters might normally suggest a lack of effort, logged an impressive 50 public events or fund-raisers in November, sometimes touching down in three states in a single day.

But it is Trump, whose Twitter-fueled, television interview-heavy campaign is upending the conventional approach to running for president, with the travel log that seems so inversely related to his success.

The 69-year-old front-runner has spent fewer days on the road than his rivals, all while holding his grip on the top spot in the Republican race. Known to be something of a homebody who prefers to sleep in his own bed, Trump is far more likely to be in Manhattan on any given day or night even though he has his own Boeing 757, not to mention hotels and resorts that brandish his gilded name from Las Vegas to Miami to Chicago.

When he does have to travel for an appearance, Trump has developed a way of getting in and out with precision. He tends to leave in the late afternoon from La Guardia Airport. His destination is usually close to an airport with a runway long enough to handle a 757. At the event, he speaks for about an hour. And when he is done he mingles for just a few minutes as his security detail lets a few people close enough for autographs and selfies. Then it is back home for the night.

null Beeld AFP
Beeld AFP

"Came up, I speak for 20 minutes, then get the hell out of here," Trump boasted during a mid-November forum in Orlando, Florida, a quick flight from another of his residences, in Palm Beach.

Rubio, the Florida senator, has also perfected the campaign drop-in. His days on the road are usually light on big public events like rallies or town halls, according to the analysis, which was based on the candidates' public schedules, news reports of their appearances and detailed itineraries provided by the campaigns.

In November he spent parts of 14 days in Florida, including a break for Thanksgiving. The 44-year-old father of four has said that he strives to spend as much time with his family as he can on the weekends, and is often at church on Sundays. He almost never campaigns that day except to do a television interview.

An admitted football fanatic, he is also loath to miss Sunday games. (During his five-day trip to Iowa, he watched football with his state chairman, Jack Whitver, a former wide receiver for Iowa State.)

In New Hampshire, Rubio's thin public schedule has drawn snide criticism from the state's largest newspaper, The Union Leader, which has endorsed Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.

Marco Rubio. Beeld AP
Marco Rubio.Beeld AP

"Marco? Marco? Where's Rubio?" read the headline on an editorial last week. His aides say he spends more time in private meetings with business leaders, pastors and other community figures that they choose not to publicize.

It is his unseen schedule that tends to be busier, like on Nov. 17 when he was in Washington for a classified intelligence briefing, then New York and Texas for fund-raising.

If Rubio, who is consistently in the top four in polls, and Trump are examples of how little a candidate can pencil in on a public schedule and still do well, Bush is just the opposite.

The week of Nov. 9 was a typical one for him. After spending the weekend in Miami, Bush, the 62-year-old former Florida governor, flew to Milwaukee for the Republican debate, which he prefaced with a fund-raiser and a school-choice program nearby. The day after the debate, Wednesday, he went to Iowa for two town hall-style meetings and a meet-and-greet with veterans. Then it was off to Michigan on Thursday for another town hall-style gathering and a fund-raising lunch. By dinnertime he was in New Hampshire for a house party. And after an overnight stay there and another town hall meeting on Friday morning, he flew to Florida for an event with the state Republican Party.

While Bush is essentially free of the constraints of a day job, others have had to balance their campaign obligations with official duties.

Rubio, for one, has been chided for shirking his responsibilities as a senator, missing more votes this year than any of his colleagues. His schedules show that he spent just two days in Washington in November (the Senate was in session for 10 days). When he missed a vote on a defense-spending bill favored by conservatives, he entered an explanation in the official record from the road in New Hampshire saying that he "would have voted yes."

One of his rivals, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, was there to vote for the bill. Cruz spent six days in November working in Washington, introducing two bills and as chairman of two hearings, among other things.

Ted Cruz. Beeld AFP
Ted Cruz.Beeld AFP

Cruz, 44 with two young daughters, has organized his itineraries to spend the middle of the week on Senate business, while campaigning on weekends. Just two days after Thanksgiving, he was back in Iowa, the state where he has focused much of his attention with three visits last month, and where he has steadily risen in polls.

Cruz has densely packed days on the campaign trail, scheduling as many as a half-dozen public appearances, and the days grow longer when he adds last-minute stops, dropping into a pizzeria or cafe.

Like the senators, Christie has balanced his official schedule as governor of New Jersey with an increasing emphasis on New Hampshire, although he still lags in polls.

In November, Christie, who is 53, made three visits to the state - including a three-day, 10-stop tour early in the month. As he became a fixture in the state, Christie told a guest at a house party in Bedford, New Hampshire, "You'll be tired of me by the time this is over!"

His time in New Hampshire apparently unsettled Trump, who suggested that Christie had abandoned his "deeply troubled" home state. "New Jerseyans not happy!" Trump wrote on Twitter.

Labeled "super low energy" by Trump, Ben Carson has maintained a schedule, much like his candidacy, that has been less conventional, as he spent only a few hours in New Hampshire, to get his name on the primary ballot, and was in Iowa only briefly in November.

As he took a comparatively breezy approach to the crucial early primary states, he devoted his face time elsewhere, touching down in more than a dozen states, as well as traveling to the Middle East, during the month.

Ben Carson. Beeld AP
Ben Carson.Beeld AP

Once he wrapped up the book tour in Florida in the first week of November, Carson boarded a JetBlue flight to Westchester, then headed to Connecticut for a Saturday lunch meeting with Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, and Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul, according to his calendar. That evening, he flew to San Juan for a rally to support statehood for Puerto Rico (which has a Republican primary in March) - before turning his focus to that Tuesday's debate in Milwaukee.

Despite the unusual approach, Carson, who is 64, has maintained his status in the top tier of candidates, though he has slipped a bit in recent polls. He has not seemed particularly fazed by the pace of the race, especially when he compares it with his time as a pediatric neurosurgeon.

"This," Carson said in a November interview, "doesn't seem quite that bad."

Nu belangrijker dan ooit: steun kwaliteitsjournalistiek.

Neem een abonnement op De Morgen

Op alle artikelen, foto's en video's op demorgen.be rust auteursrecht. Deeplinken kan, maar dan zonder dat onze content in een nieuw frame op uw website verschijnt. Graag enkel de titel van onze website en de titel van het artikel vermelden in de link. Indien u teksten, foto's of video's op een andere manier wenst over te nemen, mail dan naar info@demorgen.be.
DPG Media nv – Mediaplein 1, 2018 Antwerpen – RPR Antwerpen nr. 0432.306.234