I wish I could find the article I wrote over a year ago about the political calculations of Donald Trump. I’m not even sure it got published; I sent it to several venues but nobody took it, so it probably landed on one of my obscure publications. While most were calling him a bumbling, shoot from the hip blabbermouth who wouldn’t make it to the first primary, I saw nearly every move he made as precise. That’s not to say he was scripted, but he knew the messages he needed to put out there and he’s a natural at delivering them.
The key to understanding this is in the way he pushed the birther movement. While it brought him ridicule from the mainstream, it secured his first base, one that would never leave him. Then, his “sloppy” declaration of focusing on illegal immigrants who were “murderers” and “rapists” again brought scorn from most channels but built another passionate base that would stay with him to the end, including the likes of Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity.
Perhaps the most obvious indicator that he had a highly in-depth plan was in the phrase “Make America Great Again.” The cornerstone of his campaign became the rallying cry it was meant to be and it worked wonderfully. He initially filed his intent to trademark the phrase in November… 2012.
That’s how Trump’s mind works. He didn’t run a random campaign of whims that started in June, 2015. He ran a calculated campaign that began the moment Barack Obama won his second term. He knew that the best time to run would be following a two-term incumbent. He knew there was enough angst with the GOP establishment that he could cut through the field like melted butter. His only risk would be outsiders like Ben Carson or outcasts like Ted Cruz and he was able to take them out over time.
This brings us to Mitt Romney. What would compel Trump to tap someone who held a press conference specifically to call Trump out for having poor character and disposition? The answer comes with putting everything we know about Trump together. He is already in Election 2020 mode, at least from a preparation perspective. Most Presidents fill their cabinets with long-time supporters, candidates they beat in the primaries, or outright experts in their field and Trump may end up doing the same. Then again, he may be cutting off GOP opposition that could unite against him in 2020.
Nikki Haley, for example, was not exactly a loud supporter of Trump’s. She conspicuously failed to outright endorse him at the convention, saying instead that she was in Cleveland to stop Hillary Clinton and that she intended to vote for Trump. Even after that, she was hot and cold towards Trump, never going to so far as to pull support but willing to speak out against Trump’s occasional scandals. She wasn’t a primary opponent, an avid supporter, and she has no qualifications for being the UN Ambassador. What she does have is a strong base and popularity as a rising star in the party. Now, she’s Trump’s rising star.
Romney, while unlikely to ever run again for President, still has a strong base, particular with the donor class. Compared to John Bolton, he’s much less qualified for the position. Compared to Rudy Giuliani, he’s the opposite on the loyalty scale. If Trump picks Romney for State against the loud opposition from his own transition team, it would be for one reason: eliminating a future threat.