President Donald Trump was elected largely thanks to a small minority of independent voters who no longer seem to support him or his policies. Since 2016, he's spent years throwing red meat at his base to shore up conservatives so they will support him in droves. The problem, of course, is that there aren't enough conservative voters to reelect him, so he's trying to reach outside the box. It's not only not working, it's putting his campaign in "mortal danger.".
Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman explained that Trump's efforts to speak to networks other than Fox News has backfired. In the past few weeks, the president has spoken to NBC's Chuck Todd and ABC's George Stephanopoulos. Both interviews were public relations disasters. Sherman cited Neil Cavuto, who said he thinks Sarah Huckabee Sanders resigned over the interview flops.
But according to sources, it was campaign manager Brad Parscale who told Trump he needed to branch out of the Fox News bubble.
“Brad feels like cable-news voters have decided on Trump,” the source told Vanity Fair. According to the source, Parscale studied data that showed the total cable-news audience is 10 million to 15 million voters. “These are the high information voters. They’ve made up their minds,” the Republican source said. ABC and NBC have the largest broadcast news audiences, so they wanted the largest mainstream audience before Trump announced his reelection in Orlando.
It was Fox News founder Roger Ailes who developed the base-heavy campaign strategy that Trump pioneered for 2016. He framed it within the context of cable news itself, saying it's all about "niche. The loyalty of the passionate few." But riling up the base has also riled up opposition to the Trump base, prompted the GOP to lose registrants and Congressional seats in 2018.
"Trump’s foray outside the Fox bubble reflects the level of concern at the highest reaches of the Trump campaign about the president’s election prospects at this early stage," wrote Sherman. "An embarrassing leak earlier this month revealed an internal poll showing Trump losing—badly—to Joe Biden. (Trump reportedly told aides to deny the polling existed.) To stanch further leaks, the campaign fired three outside pollsters, including Kellyanne Conway’s former firm. Meanwhile, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner have been fretting that fund-raising is falling short. The campaign’s biggest financial backers from 2016, the Mercers, have bailed on Trump. The base-first strategy, with Fox as the linchpin, has put Trump’s reelection campaign in mortal danger."
Sherman explained that Ailes' all-in conservative candidacy "did immense damage to our civic space," and it likely has changed American politics forever. But he owns Trump's victory just as much as Trump himself does. The problem is that it also puts Trump in a fairly small box. A creature of habit, Trump loves the applause lines he scores from old attacks on Hillary Clinton and catty nicknames for Democrats.
The niche marketing might be great to score cash for a viewing audience that includes 43 percent of the American electorate, but it certainly isn't about to get Trump reelected.