The reaction to the news of the latest Trump campaign shake-up has ranged from shock and disbelief to laughter. “Hiring [Breitbart’s Steve] Bannon to run the campaign in the midst of its crisis is insane,” Republican consultant Rory Cooper told NBC News. But there is one strategic way it makes sense: Team Trump views the 2016 presidential contest as a race to 40%. Under that scenario, you somehow assume that Libertarian Gary Johnson will get more than 15% of the popular vote, and that the Green Party’s Jill Stein will get more than 5%.
And then you make a play for the base to carry you across the finish line. It’s essentially the game plan that helped elect — and then re-elect — controversial Maine Gov. Paul LePage in 2010 and 2014. Of course, there’s a problem with this base play: If the 2016 presidential race is a contest to 40%, well, Hillary Clinton probably gets there first, especially with Trump’s percentage currently sitting in the 30s in many key states. And it’s doubtful that Johnson and Stein will get a combined 20%-plus of the vote; it will likely be half of that — if not less.