At a mid-August fundraiser in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Ivanka Trump was asked to name the personality traits she inherited most from her parents.
Without much of a pause, Trump told the crowd of roughly 120 high-end donors that her mother gave her an example of how to be a powerful, successful woman.
And her father? He passed onto her his moral compass, she said, according to two event attendees.
The exchange was part of a broader conversation about Ivanka Trump’s life in Washington and the White House during a swanky retreat organized by Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in the Wyoming mountains. Her appearance signaled an informal effort by the Trump campaign, family and top aides to woo donors this election cycle by sharing intimate, colorful details about this atypical White House.
The goal: lean on the celebrity status of the sprawling Trump clan, and even well-known aides, to make donors feel like they are part of the show — and deeply committed to winning the president four more seasons.
It also helps to humanize a brash president best known for his prolific tweets, his media-bashing, his boastfulness about his tough negotiating style and his well-worn Apprentice line, “You’re fired.”
Donors from all over the country appear to love the insider take — even if D.C. operatives or Wall Street executives would prefer more concrete insight into the president’s upcoming moves on China tariffs, potential tax cuts or regulatory moves out of agencies.
“As a Trump donor, it is energizing to hear stories about President Trump being personal and engaged on the issues,” said Dan Eberhart, chief executive officer of Canary LLC, a Colorado-based energy company and Trump supporter who has heard colorful stories at other fundraising events. “The media consistently and conspicuously omits any stories of the president being human or personally engaging, so these firsthand accounts really help paint a fuller picture of what’s happening inside the White House.”
Using personal stories to court donors is a well-worn political strategy. The huge Bush clan propped up each other over the years, with Neil Bush, George W. Bush or first lady Barbara Bush serving as excellent fundraisers and speakers on behalf of their father, President George H.W. Bush. The Romney boys fanned out across the country to speak at events about their father and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as he ran for president in 2012. Chelsea Clinton frequently stumped for her mother, Hillary, during her presidential bid in 2016, telling supporters anecdotes about Clinton as a grandmother who sang “The Wheels on the Bus.”
Family and close aides like the White House chief of staff can remind donors what is unique about the candidate, or the way he or she interacts with family and friends, making a politician appear more relatable.
The campaign, Republican National Committee and Trump-aligned groups also benefit from a deeper bench of surrogates because it allows them to fundraise in multiple locations on the same day. In mid-July, for instance, Don Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, headlined two fundraisers in California over a two-day period, while the president spoke on the East Coast at an event in Bedminster, N.J.
“This is a very low-cost way to make a big donor feel special,” said Tammy Vigil, an associate professor of communication at Boston University, who studies political campaigns and persuasion. “The idea is to make people feel like they have the inside scoop. You could think of it as being akin to spending the night in the Lincoln Bedroom, which donors used to get to do.”
“It’s the storytelling that has become the selling point,” Vigil added. “The stories may not actually be accurate, but it still gives people a sense of connectedness.”
The Jackson Hole event seemed particularly wired into the Oval Office.
During Ivanka Trump’s conversation at the mountain lodge, moderated by former “Entertainment Tonight” host Mary Hart, the president called into the event to say hello and was put on speakerphone. Donors were absolutely delighted, according to four attendees in the room that night.
His message was simple. The crowd was in good hands with his daughter and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who spoke the following night. Implicit in his brief remarks was the idea that Kushner and Ivanka Trump speak on his behalf, said two attendees — a status the president does not afford to even his top White House aides.
Trump’s family isn’t always offering something new. Ivanka Trump‘s comment about the traits she inherited from her father echoed a similar comment she made at the Republican National Convention in 2016, when she told the audience: “My father taught my siblings and me the importance of positive values and a strong ethical compass.” (Through a White House spokesperson, she declined to comment for this story.)
But at other recent events, Jared Kushner has detailed his battleground plans for the 2020 election including the way he intends to keep a close eye on the campaign spending.
He’s joked to donors about the way Washington operatives and the media started to attack him and Ivanka even before they landed in the White House, despite their good intentions.
Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, has regaled donors with tales about Trump being so invested in the upcoming 2020 election that he’s found the president on the couch in the Oval Office, with polls strewn across his lap.
Recently, Mulvaney told donors about his instructions to one White House policy adviser, who was scheduled to brief the president on budget cuts, government spending and regulations. Mulvaney warned that no one gets through a presentation without being interrupted multiple times by the president.
This official did manage to deliver his full briefing, Mulvaney told the crowd. But instead of asking a follow-up question, Trump asked the White House aide who he would be in the world, if he could be anyone — himself or, say, Tiger Woods?
The aide then joked with the president that he would be the Tiger Woods of deregulation if the administration accomplished all it wanted to. It was Mulvaney’s stab at wonky humor.
Donald Trump Jr. is also known for frequently telling off-the-cuff stories about his father to donors at fundraising luncheons, dinners or small gatherings including a recent hunting trip in Texas with the late Republican donor T. Boone Pickens.
“You have to have a draw to convince donors to write a $50,000 check to come to a fundraiser,” said one close White House adviser. “The president and vice president are obviously a draw, and Melania Trump would be amazing, if she would do it. The next best things are the kids. You have to fill the program with surrogates the donors want to see.”
The difference between the 2020 Trump campaign and the 2016 election is that the Trump campaign now has a more organized infrastructure, with a far greater fundraising prowess including an effort this time to land more deep-pocketed donors.
“They are doing a better job of building a bond with major donors than they did four years ago,” said a Republican operative with close ties to the Trump administration. “The major donor class did not know Trump then because he ran a campaign mocking and attacking them.”
“There is a lot of ground to be made up,” the operative said, “and the kids are very important to this.”
By NANCY COOK
See more here: conservatives