Steve Schmidt, the former GOP strategist who ran the day-to-day operations of former Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, sought to work for candidate Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016 but was rejected before ultimately deciding to become one of the faces of the NeverTrump movement, a new report says.
The New York Post reported Monday that prior to Trump’s election and the eventual founding of the anti-Trump political action committee The Lincoln Project, Schmidt wanted to run Trump’s campaign, as he enthusiastically viewed then-candidate Trump as a potential winner.
Sources claiming to have knowledge of a reported March 2016 meeting between Trump and Schmidt in New York City told the Post that the then-Republican political consultant was eager to meet the eventual GOP nominee. The meeting would have occurred around Super Tuesday, when it became clear Trump would take the nomination.
Schmidt wanted to run the campaign but was rebuffed by Trump, who did not care for Schmidt, according to the Post.
Trump saw Schmidt as a “total idiot,” one source said.
The Post reported that “things quickly soured when Trump thought Schmidt’s ideas were bad and the Big Apple real estate mogul left the meeting with a feeling that Schmidt was ‘very untrustworthy’ and a ‘total idiot.'”
In fairness to Schmidt, he later acknowledged he did attend the meeting, but suggested he did so only in order to gauge Trump as a candidate.
He renounced the GOP in 2018:
29 years and nine months ago I registered to vote and became a member of The Republican Party which was founded in 1854 to oppose slavery and stand for the dignity of human life. Today I renounce my membership in the Republican Party. It is fully the party of Trump.
— Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) June 20, 2018
But the Post’s sources say Schmidt’s recounting of events portrays them inaccurately.
“[S]ources familiar with the meeting said Schmidt spent the entire encounter presenting what he thought the outsider candidate needed to do to win the election and was reportedly gunning for the campaign chief role, which Corey Lewandowski was fired from three months later,” the outlet reported.
The source who said Trump viewed Schmidt as a “total idiot” also claimed the consultant was in communication with Trump’s campaign for months leading up to the meeting.
Schmidt described Trump as “the best candidate he had ever seen,” the source said.
Schmidt later denied the validity of the Post’s reporting on Twitter:
It’s a lie Brit. He asked three times, I said no. The last was in June 16. I remember when you were a respected journalist. Anyone from OANN reach out to you? Hear they are looking for anchors. You’d fit in well. https://t.co/gPWv6y8hmf
— Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) July 27, 2020
If the report is true, then the optics are horrible for Schmidt and his fellow members of the embattled, old guard GOP political consultant class.
Men such as Schmidt, Bill Kristol and Rick Wilson were essentially left behind well before Trump’s 2016 general election upset win, when voters embraced the politics of Trump and signaled that neoconservatism would be replaced by Trump’s “America First” approach.
Trump ultimately went on to defeat Hillary Clinton, the media and even the establishment wing of his own party, winning the White House in a polarizing election.
Neither McCain in 2008 nor Mitt Romney in 2012 came close to achieving Trump’s level of success in 2016, even though both men had the backing of the Republican establishment in their respective elections.
The Post story furthers a narrative that Schmidt and others attempted to dictate the direction of Republican voters in 2016, and once they failed, they turned to fighting the party they once saw themselves as gatekeepers of.
They formed The Lincoln Project to take down the party of Lincoln.
Whether the Post report is veracious or not, the NeverTrumpers hold a particular disdain for Trump — and for you as well, if you voted for him. But the report certainly leads to questions about the motives of Schmidt and others who now bank on opposing the conservative ideas they previously fought for.
Let’s check in on some of these NeverTrump conservatives, who are so principled when it comes to protecting conservatism as they see it that they would rather have the country dive into the darkness of socialism than have Trump lead the GOP:
.@ProjectLincoln Abe has been watching Barr and is appalled. He is delighted with @RepSwalwell who crushed him like Grant did Lee. But mostly Abe has noticed Barr is rattled, prickly, vulnerable. He wants both power and a virtuous legacy. He will have neither soon. Abe will help
— Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) July 28, 2020
Trump is to blame. Kids returning to school won’t be for long. There will be no tail gates and college football. No vacations. Instead there will be foreclosures and evictions. Small businesses will close. Dreams will die and there will be so many more dead Americans https://t.co/uMt6yc9E4H
— Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) July 29, 2020
Not presumably forever; not perhaps for a day after Nov. 3, 2020; not on every issue or in every way until then. But for the time being one has to say: We are all Democrats now.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) February 1, 2020
“Conservatives, Republicans & independents can legitimately reject Trump, however unhappy they are with Biden. Far better to face the perils of opposition than to risk irreversibly tarnishing the philosophy of conservatism & its party with Trump’s brand.”https://t.co/ctI0BQahfH
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) July 28, 2020
— New York Post (@nypost) July 21, 2020
Could these men have ever truly supported conservatism, or is traditional political consulting as swampy and disingenuous as it sounds?
Regardless, the Post report is not a good look for the president’s NeverTrump critics.
If the report is accurate, then Schmidt, who attacks the president regularly in interviews and with targeted Lincoln Project TV ads, was rejected by Trump and then renounced everything he once stood for.
Trump did not win in 2016 by running on contradictory public and private positions. The former business magnate and TV star ran with strong messaging and bold policy ideas, all of which were pounced upon by critics beginning in 2015, when he announced his long shot candidacy.
Trump ran arguably the most transparent campaign in political history in 2016, and was a lighting rod for controversy with his proposed blunt solutions to issues which had nagged the GOP base for decades.
Schmidt knew exactly who Trump was in March 2016, just like the rest of us did.
Hell hath no fury like a gelded political consultant class scorned, it appears.
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