Last year, Donald Trump uttered these words: “I’ve always said, if you run for president, you shouldn’t be allowed to use teleprompters. Because you don’t even know if the guy is smart.”
Now, as his chances of winning the presidency grow bleaker by the day, Trump is breaking his own rule and hoping the device – his new best friend – will save his failing campaign.
In Charlotte, North Carolina tonight – during his first rally since restructuring his campaign – Trump was rolled onstage by his handlers and told to read another staff-written speech from a teleprompter. Once again, as the Republican nominee read the remarks, it was if both he and the audience were hearing them for the first time.
“If you’re keeping count, Trump is using a teleprompter for the third time this week,” Reuters political reporter Ginger Gibson tweeted on Thursday. “Hasn’t given a single off-the-cuff speech yet.”
This is clearly an effort by Trump and his new babysitters to make sure he doesn’t again start insulting Gold Star families or mocking those with disabilities.
This strategy shift will likely be a failure for several reasons.
First, it isn’t who Trump is and who his die-hard supporters want him to be. After all, it is the voters who applaud his impromptu bluster and bigotry that made him the GOP nominee in the first place. These are the people that make up the bulk of Trump’s support.
Secondly, Trump was supposed to be a non-politician that can’t be controlled by anyone. How can he make that argument now, when he’s clearly under the control of newly hired political operatives?
If Trump is so weak that he can’t take charge of his own campaign, then he’ll be eaten alive should he ever become president.
Probably the biggest reason why Trump’s teleprompter bet won’t pay off is that he can’t take it with him everywhere.
There will be interviews with reporters who will give Trump questions he thinks are unfair. If he doesn’t dodge them, there will be three head-to-head debates where Hillary Clinton is likely to say something to get under his skin. At some point, he will be forced to speak off-the-cuff about policy matters, an area in which he has shown zero knowledge.
In these circumstances, without a teleprompter to hold onto, there is no evidence that the real Donald Trump can conduct himself like a rational adult and potential president.
It essentially boils down to this: Voters either get the real Donald Trump, who is an erratic and irresponsible demagogue; or they get Teleprompter Trump, who is a puppet to right-wing political strategists.
Neither of these options is all that appealing, which is why the Trump campaign’s makeover is likely to fail.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.