The Jeff Roe Monologues

Trump at a campaign rally. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images
Tina Nguyen
June 8, 2022

After seven years of chronicling the dramatic arc of Donald Trump’s political career, I can confidently say this: being Trump’s campaign manager is a cursed job. Every individual who has occupied that post—six people so far, across two election cycles—has inevitably met some disgraceful, highly-publicized end, no matter their background, ideology or talent. Corey Lewandowski clashed with Trump’s kids; Paul Manafort fraternized with the Russians; Steve Bannon’s ego threatened to eclipse Trump; Kellyanne Conway stepped down to focus on her family; Brad Parscale got shanked over budget issues and had a mental breakdown. Only Bill Stepien, a professional campaign operative, finished his term without incident and managed to slink back to his consulting shop without ever saying much about having lost the election or the stop-the-steal mayhem that followed.

This perilous state of nature has been fueled by Trump’s desire that underlings compete for his favor. But it is also a function of his narrow circle of trust—to get closer to the principal, someone else must be pushed out. It’s not surprising, then, that the chatter about Jeff Roe auditioning to manage Trump’s 2024 campaign is not sitting well with some incumbents among the Mar-a-Lago in-crowd. “Do you think Trumpworld’s gonna take it lying down as news story after news story comes out about how they’re going to have a new dad soon?” one Republican operative asked me rhetorically. “That he’s really excited to meet them and go to some ball games?”

Roe, the founder and principal of Axiom Strategies, is the likely frontrunner for the gig, assuming Trump runs, which seems increasingly inevitable these days. He has a midterm track record that suggests a tactile understanding of what G.O.P. voters want in the current post-Trump, inflation-riddled, social-issues-triggered, supply-chain-throttled country. He has manifested a similarly deft touch for weaponizing high-salience culture war issues without alienating moderates. And, perhaps most importantly, he has demonstrated how creativity can win out against the conventional wisdom: he elected Republicans in states they weren’t supposed to win (Glenn Youngkin in Virginia), proved that he could overcome a rival Trump endorsement (Jim Pillen in Nebraska), nearly beat a Trump-backed celebrity with superior strategy (Dave McCormick in Pennsylvania), and, most brazenly, congratulated Trump on his endorsee beating Roe’s own client, Josh Mandel, in Ohio. (No hard feelings? In this party?!)