Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is scheduled to appear at a rally in Austin tonight.
That’s right. A Republican running for national office is holding a rally in the most liberal city in the state and it’s just 76 days until Election Day.
If that sounds like a weird move— it’s because it is, according to these Republican strategists.
“It’s weird and it’s a complete waste of time,” says Brendan Steinhauser, co-founder and partner at Steinhauser Strategies and a former campaign manager for Sen. John Cornyn.
Deidre Delisi, a partner at Delisi Communications and former Chief of Staff for Gov. Rick Perry, says she finds it pretty baffling, too.
“You know it’s a little bit groundbreaking – I guess is a positive way to put a spin on it,” she says. “Certainly unheard of.”
Steinhauser says he’s having a hard time understanding what Trump thinks he’ll gain from today’s rally.
“A lot of Republican strategists and operatives and candidates and party figures are scratching their heads with this one trying to figure what Donald Trump is up to, what he knows that we don’t about campaigns,” he says. “Because for us this looks like a wasted opportunity for him to spend time in Columbus, Ohio, or in Tampa, Florida or places like that which will actually determine the election in November.”
This is the time when candidates are usually spending time in swing states –trying to make electoral math go their way. Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton has been doing that.
In fact, when it was time to pull more money out of Texas' political ATM – it was running mate Tim Kaine who came to Austin two weeks ago. Not Clinton. Beyond Trump's personal appearance for cash (he's attending fundraisers in Fort Worth and Downtown Austin), no one really understands why he’d also hold a rally.
Steinhauser says for one – Austin isn’t a place where’d you find Republicans anyway.
“Most of the Republican voters are in Harris County, Tarrant County, Denton County, Williamson County and a lot of other places where you can count on those Republican votes,” Steinhauser explains. “So, if your goal is to try and unify the Republican party in Texas you’d spend your time in those areas, not in eastern Travis County where there are very few Republican voters.”
And as Delisi points out, big time Republican donors aren’t here either.
“Usually when you have presidential candidates come in to Texas to raise money they are going to places like Houston and Dallas,” she says. “So I am little bit surprised he’s coming to Austin for a fundraiser and I am even more surprised that he’s staying in Austin to hold a rally.”
Delisi says she doesn’t think the rally will be a complete waste of time, though. Sure his time could be better spent elsewhere, but national media coverage can still spread his message.
“I guess they are working under the theory that all TV is good TV – meaning he’s here in Texas,” she says. “He’s doing a swing through the state, he has some time, why not go do a rally and pack the audience, which he will. He will have a full crowd.”
But that’s not enough for people like Steinhauser, who say Trump is working against himself at this point.
Steinhauser says things could be going better for Trump—even in Texas – and his strategy is all over the place. He says Trump isn’t listening to campaign professionals who know how to give him a better shot at beating Clinton in November. And Steinhauser says – as a Republican -- decisions like holding a rally in a liberal city 76 days before election day are disappointing and frustrating.
Trump's rally starts tonight at 7:30 at the Travis County Expo Center.