President Donald Trump is amassing an army of political insiders for 2020 — all without leaving the White House.
The Trump administration has hosted 14 “state days” over the past few months, inviting county commissioners of both parties to come through for tours and meet senior administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence.
While the daylong events are formally billed as a way to establish a relationship between behemoth federal agencies and their local counterparts, they also are designed to engender new loyalty to a president some Republicans refused to support in 2016 as he begins to look ahead to his reelection campaign, according to two former aides.
On Wednesday, more than 100 county supervisors from Wisconsin are set to make the trip to Washington. By the end of the year, the White House expects every county commissioner in the country to have received an invitation to attend such an occasion at the White House.
Trump isn’t the first president to use the pomp of the presidency to cement support or cultivate alliances in critical states. But for this president, the meetings are helping wipe the slate clean with people who were never on board the Trump Train.
“He’s bypassing the political infrastructure and going directly to the elected officials closest to the people,” said GOP strategist Saul Anuzis, a former Michigan GOP state chairman who is not involved in the White House’s local courtship efforts. “It helps them get their message out to address whatever they want and it allows them to get extremely close to the end voter.”
“You’ve got to convert people,” Anuzis added. “And anytime anyone participates in a White House program, it elevates their feeling of value and plays to their ego.”
Other White Houses in recent years have played host to locals: President Barack Obama regularly organized hundreds of bipartisan mayors during their annual conference. George W. Bush similarly had governors and state legislators, including those whose work he sought to magnify.