The Seduction of Sam Clovis

It was entirely overshadowed by the ejection of Jorge Ramos, but the actual purpose of the Trump presser in Dubuque late yesterday was to show off The Donald’s latest trophy staffer: Sam Clovis, until very, very recently Iowa Chairman for Rick Perry’s presidential campaign.

I wrote about Clovis’ “candidate-shopping” yesterday, and while noting his close relationship to Trump’s Iowa State Director Chuck Laudner, suggested he’d be a better fit with somebody like Ted Cruz. I mean, Clovis is a serious constitutional conservative; what’s he doing with a guy who has little but contempt for conservative economic shibboleths or for that matter civil liberties?

This does seem to represent a pattern with Team Trump, though. His national campaign chairman, Corey Lewandowski, made his bones with the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity outfit (and its predecessor group, Citizens for a Sound Economy). Along with Clovis, Trump yesterday announced another eye-catching hire for his South Carolina campaign: Nancy Mace, the first woman to graduate from The Citadel, and an unsuccessful challenger to Lindsey Graham last year. Mace suffered in that contest from her close association with Will Folks, the libertarian-ish blogger who alleged Gov. Nikki Haley had an extra-marital affair with him some years ago. Again, not an intuitive Trumpite. Nor is NH State Director Matt Ciepielowski, another AFP alumnus who spent the 2012 cycle with Youth for Ron Paul.

Maybe these birds are caught up in the same celebrity-mania as many of Trump’s supporters. Perhaps, a bit less superficially, they are attracted by what the Church calls the “glamor of evil.” Almost certainly they enjoy Trump’s nose-thumbing at the Republican Establishment. And without question, his checks are less likely to bounce than those of other candidates (e.g., the dead-broke Rick Perry, who stopped paying staff soon before Sam Clovis stopped supporting him for president).

It’s even possible Trump’s staffers figure he’ll get bored with politics and bow out before things get serious, giving them another opportunity to sign on with a winner. If so, they’ve got a lot to learn about deals with the devil.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.