Within hours of President Donald Trump’s radioactive tweets on Sunday urging several Democratic congresswomen to “go back” to other countries, his campaign was scrambling to repackage the attack on the four women of color into a broader patriotic message.
By Sunday night, the campaign was portraying Trump as a defender of American pride. “President Trump loves this country [and] doesn’t like it when elected officials constantly disparage it,” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for Trump’s reelection operation.
By Monday morning, the campaign’s rapid response director and Trump himself were branding the congresswomen as dangerous ideologues, retweeting Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s accusations that the congresswomen were “a bunch of communists.”
By Monday afternoon, Trump was clinging to a list of talking points about his initial comments as he discussed them at the White House, laying out the mutated framing that had developed among his campaign and closest allies over 24 hours — Democrats have become infested by socialists who detest America.
“My point was if you are not happy here, you can leave,” read one bullet point.
“They want America to be SOCIALIST,” read another.
The evolution from the Sunday tweets to the Monday talking points offers a glimpse of what the Trump campaign will likely have to deal with as it heads into the heart of the 2020 election. While Trump’s reelection officials have long insisted that the best strategy is to always follow the president’s political instincts, the past few days have shown they also will have to regularly find ways to map Trump’s outbursts onto the campaign themes they think will drive him to victory.