RALEIGH — President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign team is getting an early start to the general election, sending 2016 campaign manager and 2020 senior campaign adviser Corey Lewandowski to key battleground states, including North Carolina.
“In the last three months, I’ve probably been in 30 states. And as I travel the country a lot, I see only strength and the Trump phenomenon stronger today than it was in 2016,” said Lewandowski.
According to N.C. GOP Chairman Michael Whatley, Lewandowski made stops across N.C. last week, including an event in Chapel Hill for college Republicans.
Lewandowski made himself available to media at the N.C. GOP headquarters on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh and told NSJ that, despite rumors, he was not committing to run for a U.S. Senate for his home state of New Hampshire unless it would be helpful to the president’s overall mission.
“I have to ask myself if that’s the highest and best use of my time, which is going to Washington, D.C., to deal with some of the beauties down there,” Lewandowski said. “And I haven’t made my decision, and it’s partially based on family responsibilities and it’s also partially based on the fact that I’m a senior adviser to both the vice president and to the president’s reelection campaign. So I want to make sure my priority is on ensuring that the Trump-Pence ticket is reelected.”
Lewandowski said he believes the GOP in New Hampshire lost both the presidential race and the U.S. Senate race in 2020 because Kelly Ayotte, the incumbent Republican senator at the time, refused to endorse Trump.
“The reason Donald Trump lost that race was because, at the top of the ticket, Kelly Ayotte and Donald Trump weren’t on the same page. There was a fracture in the Republican Party,” Lewandowski said. “That is over. Donald Trump has completely taken over the Republican Party. And if I run for the U.S. Senate with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, I will be the next U.S. senator from New Hampshire.
Lewandowski is also doing some speaking engagements for his recently released book, “Let Trump Be Trump,” although Whatley said in North Carolina Lewandowski’s events were campaign-related and he waved all speaking fees. The book chronicles his time working with Trump as a candidate and as the president.
Lewandowski has worked with Trump since January 2015 and admires Trump’s track record.
“I’ll never have that kind of economic success that he’s been able to achieve,” he said. “So he’s done something right. He’s got great instincts. I said it’s a little bit like being a jockey on American Pharoah, a great racehorse that won the Triple Crown. You get on the horse, you put the blinders on, you turn him into the corners a little bit, and you let him run.”
The book then details how certain leaders of Trump’s teams, whether on the campaign or at the White House, allowed Trump to follow his instincts and saw success, while others tried to control him and were shown the door.
“And that’s what ‘Let Trump Be Trump’ is about — helping the president or the candidate get his objectives achieved. It’s not my job to stop him from achieving those objectives or telling him no,” Lewandowski said. “My job was, and continues to be as a senior adviser to the 2020 presidential campaign, to get him to yes. Does that mean that every single tweet he puts out I say, ‘Boy, that’s the greatest tweet ever, sir?’ Of course not.”
This difference in approach is partly what he attributes his well-publicized exit from the Trump campaign in June 2016, along with his eventual return to the president’s team.
“He is the hardest working individual I’ve ever met in my life,” Lewandowski said of the president. “And because of his tenacity and intensity and because he’s so good at what he does, he expects and, moreover, he deserves, perfection. And when it’s not perfect, there are consequences for that.”
Lewandowski said he was able to help Trump win 38 primaries and caucuses and secure the Republican nomination against all odds, but when Paul Manafort arrived on the scene, it all changed.
“Paul and I are not friends, and the decision to bring Paul in was against my judgment,” he said.
But others were able to lead Trump teams without inhibiting the president, according to Lewandowski. He cited Reince Priebus and Mick Mulvaney as good leaders, and John Kelly as a staffer who attempted to overly control Trump.
“John Kelly tried to manage Trump, not let Trump be Trump, tried to keep Trump from being himself and prevent him from communicating. And you can’t do that, that’s not the job of the chief of staff,” Lewandowski said. “And in full disclosure, Mick Mulvaney, who is a personal friend of mine, I think has been a phenomenal chief of staff over the last year for the president.”
Regarding the president’s 2020 reelection chances, Lewandowski sees many reasons to be optimistic as he travels the country.
“I’m in Florida tonight. I’m in North Carolina today,” Lewandowski said. “I was in Nevada two weeks ago. I was in New York in the Buffalo area for an open congressional seat. I have been in Chicago. I have been in Minnesota. In the last three months, I’ve probably been in 30 states. And as I travel the country a lot, I see only strength and the Trump phenomenon stronger today than it was in 2016.”
He said they are looking at states like Minnesota and New Mexico, which generally lean Democrat, because he believes the president’s record resonates with a wider swath of voters and because the “Democrats are going to nominate a socialist.” He cited internal polling showing that Trump’s support among African Americans has doubled as evidence that they are remaking the map.
“Look across the country, to the states that Hillary Clinton lost in the 2016 election. I don’t see one opportunity that if the Democrats nominate a socialist, one state that they can pick up that they lost in 2016,” Lewandowski said. “Those ideas don’t play, especially when you get to middle America and working-class voters.”
He said the Democrats have overplayed their hand in Congress by failing to pass an infrastructure bill, new trade deals like the USMCA, the ability to buy health insurance across state lines and other legislation that working Americans need.
“The Democrats are going to have to go in front of the American people and say they’ve issued more congressional subpoenas than bills they’ve passed in the first year of their leadership in Washington,” Lewandowski said.
Asked if the constant negative media coverage and impeachment hearings could negatively affect Trump’s chances at another term, Lewandowski said the American people will recognize the whole process as a sham and instead vote on how the economy is improving their life and how Trump has fulfilled promises other candidates only gave lip service to, like forcing China to stop cheating on trade and putting the embassy in Jerusalem. Voters won’t be distracted by all circus on television, he said.
“It’s all bullsh*t, is what it comes down to,” Lewandowski said. “They hate this president more than they love their country. The American people see through it and they say, ‘We’re going to impeach a guy for a telephone call?’”
Lewandowski called the impeachment inquiry a “Pandora’s box” and questioned where the process might end. He said Republicans could ask for transcripts of calls from Democrats, including former President Barack Obama’s conversations with Iran on the nuclear deal. Obama’s negotiations with Iran ended with $400 million of cash being flown to Iran. “Was that a quid pro quo? What was that for?”