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Politics

Governor hopeful goes all-in on Trump … in Massachusetts

“[Lewandowski] traveled the nation twice in two campaigns with Donald Trump and sort of constructed that barnstorm, grassroots-energizing marketing campaign,” former Massachusetts GOP political director John Milligan mentioned in an interview. “Diehl is probably going hoping he can recreate that right here.”

Corey Lewandowski listens to a speaker during a news conference.

Corey Lewandowski listens to a speaker throughout a information convention on authorized challenges to vote counting in Pennsylvania on Nov. 7, 2020, in Philadelphia. John Minchillo
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John Minchillo/AP Picture

However that is nonetheless Massachusetts, and in a state the place general-election voters have repeatedly and overwhelmingly repudiated Trump and candidates who trumpet his model, Diehl’s newest transfer is head-scratcher.

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“He thinks he’s going to have some kind of star energy if he calls in the massive weapons,” former Massachusetts GOP Chair Jennifer Nassour mentioned of Diehl in an interview. “The extra he talks about Trump and brings in Trump individuals, the much less probability he has of wooing these of us which might be in the center.”

Interesting to the center is vital in a state the place independents make up greater than half of registered voters and have routinely helped ship moderates from each events to the nook workplace on Beacon Hill. Even Democratic state Lawyer Common Maura Healey learn the room and ditched her progressive prosecutor previous in favor of a extra middle-of-the-road, economy-focused message when she entered the governor’s race final month and instantly grew to become the frontrunner.

This wasn’t at all times Diehl’s path. He initially pivoted away from Trump when he launched his marketing campaign in July, deflecting questions concerning the former president’s conspiracy theories concerning the 2020 election and saying he’d “moderately go away nationwide politics out of this race.”

However Diehl was already beginning to pattern towards Trump behind the scenes, bringing on distinguished Massachusetts Trump supporter Amanda Orlando — a fellow GOP state committee member and ally of Trump-touting state celebration Chair Jim Lyons — as marketing campaign supervisor.

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A number of months later, confronted with the prospect that Baker would possibly really search a 3rd time period, Diehl dove headfirst into Trump World with an endorsement from the previous president himself.

“Every part [Diehl] has accomplished for the final 12 months was contingent upon the expectation of a major combat between him and Charlie,” GOP state committee member Mike Valanzola mentioned.

However Baker bowed out in December, creating an influence vacuum. And Trump hasn’t precisely come by means of for Diehl since.

The previous president publicly danced on Baker’s political grave in an announcement that failed to say Diehl by title. And his endorsement hasn’t opened the floodgates of marketing campaign money, both. Diehl continues to be trailing all three Democrats working for governor in month-to-month fundraising hauls whereas Healey is outraising your entire subject by orders of magnitude.

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Diehl isn’t ditching Trump as a result of, in half, he’s nonetheless obtained a Republican major to get by means of and a vocal pro-Trump faction of a deeply divided state celebration he’ll want in his nook to safe the GOP nomination.

There’s additionally a brand new average Republican in play: Chris Doughty. The rich investor is comparatively unknown in comparison with Diehl — who launched an ill-fated marketing campaign towards Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2018 — however he’s already profitable assist from GOP state lawmakers and is anticipated to on the very least make Diehl work for the celebration’s blessing.

Enter Lewandowski. Regardless of being dumped from Trump’s outdated tremendous PAC and minimize off by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem after he allegedly made undesirable sexual advances towards a Trump donor at a charity occasion, the previous aide nonetheless carries some weight in his native Massachusetts.

“Corey is an extremely proficient marketing campaign strategist,” mentioned GOP state committee member Amy Carnevale, who labored throughout from Lewandowski on Capitol Hill in the early 2000s. “And his roots in the Bay State run deep.”

Nonetheless, Carnevale mentioned hiring Lewandowski is “perplexing” and sends a transparent message that Diehl’s marketing campaign is “very a lot targeted on profitable the first election and has not shifted right into a normal election mode.”

It’s mathematically not possible for Republicans to win a statewide normal election in Massachusetts with out assist from impartial voters and even some Democrats. Baker, as an illustration, polls higher with Democrats and independents than amongst his personal celebration.

And general-election voters in Massachusetts have little love for Trump. The state gave him barely one-third of the vote in each of his presidential runs.

“[Diehl’s] obtained loads of points to run on that will enchantment to independents and middle-of-the-road voters — inflation, vitality costs, the Biden administration’s failure to reign in Covid like they mentioned they’d,” mentioned Colin Reed, former marketing campaign supervisor to former Massachusetts GOP Sen. Scott Brown.

“He’s obtained a lot to work with,” Reed, who additionally served as an aide to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), added. “But he’s working a marketing campaign seemingly grounded in the previous.”

“He’s obtained a lot to work with. But he’s working a marketing campaign seemingly grounded in the previous.”

Colin Reed

Diehl’s continued embrace of Trump additionally opens a door for Healey, who constructed up her fame in half by repeatedly suing the Trump administration, to regain the foil she misplaced when the president left workplace.

“With Corey Lewandowski in the fold, it’s even clearer that Mr. Diehl’s agenda is fueled by hate and division,” Healey blasted out in an announcement Wednesday saying the distinction between her and her Republican foe “couldn’t be extra stark.”

To Diehl, Lewandowski is a “key advisor to have in working this marketing campaign,” he mentioned in an announcement. And he paired Lewandowski’s rent with the announcement that former New England Patriots lineman Fred Smerlas and his spouse, Kristy, would function fundraising co-chairs for his marketing campaign. Smerlas crossed paths with Diehl on the Trump fundraising circuit years in the past and has in the previous toyed with working for workplace himself.

GOP activists say Lewandowski, who has entry to national-level donors, might additionally assist convey in the cash Diehl will want for the first and probably towards Healey, the seemingly Democratic nominee who’s already sitting on greater than $3.9 million, in a normal election.

“Like him or hate him, he’s a nationally acknowledged title that provides some type of legitimacy to Geoff Diehl’s marketing campaign,” Valanzola mentioned. “You may argue it comes with extra hurt than good, definitely with the ties to Trump. However Corey’s not silly.”

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