Donald Trump’s campaign launched-ish last weekend with two stops in the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina. I wrote extensively last summer about the campaign’s org chart and management philosophy: small and flat and with Trump calling all the shots. So many of the cast from last season—like Hope Hicks, Ivanka, Brad Parscale and Jason Miller—are sitting this one out, apparently harboring little interest in returning. But Kellyanne Conway has played a bit of a two-step—acting as a top advisor to Trump, albeit unpaid, while also a Fox News contributor, where she can spread the Trump gospel and call out strategies she sees as ineffectual. That’s prompted some to wonder which costume is a foil: TV news talking head or boomerang I-Just-Can’t-Quit-You campaign operative?
But I think it makes zero sense for Conway to officially join the campaign. It would deprive her not just of direct revenue from Fox News, but all the derivative economic opportunities that flow from it. The campaign needs to preserve cash since they launched so early in the cycle with big dollar donors not coughing it up like they once did. Having Conway on the outside as an advisor and evangelist is a boon for a candidate who is not getting airtime on mainstream outlets. Conway’s advice would also have a higher impact on the campaign’s strategy because of Trump’s obsession with the medium.
In any case, joining the campaign would essentially be a demotion for Conway, who would likely be forced into a power-sharing structure that includes Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita. They might be happy to share it, just because there is strength in numbers, but Trump will almost certainly obliterate any sort of organizational hierarchy. It seems like a no-brainer, and I think she’ll sit this one out from the green room.
Republicans Are Coming for the Dems’ Bench
With all their new oversight power, House Republicans are ready to commence the season for Democratic public humiliation. After months of lip-licking, we know the obvious frontline target: Joe Biden, via his son Hunter, and Anthony Fauci, whose oversight of the government’s Covid response has become a sad Rorschach test for our modern politics. Alas, on Wednesday Oversight Chair James Comer will launch his mission to expose “rampant waste of taxpayer dollars in Covid Relief systems.”
This is surely an opportunity for Republicans to scrutinize how Democratic governors—particularly those with putative White House aspirations, like J.B. Pritzker, Gavin Newsom, and Gretchen Whitmer—spent relief money, especially during the most frantic weeks of the pandemic when state governors were under immense pressure to put protective funds to work. The tenor of the investigations will coalesce around fiscal responsibility, of course, regarding the American Rescue Plan. And you might expect gestures towards impartiality to come in, zeroing in on less popular G.O.P. figures, like former Maryland governor Larry Hogan, who is “not beloved by our people” as one congressional Republican put it to me. Of course this is a dangerous road since Covid money was splashed around everywhere. Even Marjorie Taylor Greene accepted $183,504 in PPP loans before she became a member of Congress.
Meanwhile, some Republican lawmakers have been thinking hard about the use of subpoenas and how the tool, despite being a cynical news cycle magic wand, didn’t always work out well for their Democratic counterparts in terms of actually accruing information. This cohort has articulated the perspective that subpoenas are effectively a waste of time: they stall momentum since being held in contempt is just a way to run out the clock before the next Congress. Instead, an emerging preference centers on interviewing subjects of investigation, making those conversations as meaningful and thoughtful as possible, offering the details to the committees and, if worse comes to worst, subpoenaing them later. Then again, not everyone is on board with this thinking. CNN reports that Jim Jordan’s Judiciary committee is subpoena-happy, and planning to issue a rule by which they can issue a subpoena without consulting Democrats at all.