This piece is the second part of a point-counterpoint with the one and only Philip Bump. To see why Philip says Trump is not a modern candidate but actually a throwback to the Reagan era, click here.
1. Tweet. A lot.
2. Appear on cable television -- usually via phone. Also, a lot.
3. Make a quick trip to a state that will hold an early vote. Give a speech. Hold a press conference. Take -- you guessed it -- a lot of questions from the media.
That's a very different schedule than any of his other rivals for the GOP nod are keeping. For the most part, they are flitting in between Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina -- cramming event after event of gripping and grinning into day after day of grueling campaigning.
Unlike those opponents, who are following the traditional blueprint of how to win, Trump is machete-ing his own path through the presidential thicket -- in a remarkably modern way.
Why campaign in front of 200 or so Iowans when you can reach those 200 plus tens of thousands more via your Twitter account or an omnipresent presence on cable television? After all, he has 3.7 million Twitter followers that he peppers with messages pumping himself up -- and running down his opponents -- at least a dozen times a day. And, he can command cable TV time seemingly whenever he wants it. He faced down Fox News Channel, won, and then got a full hour on Sean Hannity's show as a make-up present from Roger Ailes this week alone!
Trump isn't the first candidate to try to take advantage of how technology has re-made campaigns. Former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson (R) entered the 2008 presidential primary fight very late and believed that the combination of his celebrity and the new means of connecting with voters (YouTube etc.) could allow him to largely conduct a campaign without ever leaving his home in Virginia.
It didn't work. Thompson came across as disinterested and, frankly, lazy. That perception coupled with a series of mediocre debate performances doomed him; he dropped his candidacy the day after the South Carolina primary.
But, that was seven years ago. Twitter was barely a flicker in the political world; it is now the sun around which the daily to and fro revolves. Cable was obviously a big deal even back in 2008. But Thompson, a movie star of some renown, wasn't (and isn't) the celebrity that Trump is. Trump is, for better or worse, instantly recognizable to virtually every person in the country (and, gulp, lots of parts of the world.). And, while Thompson was a relatively traditional Republican politician in terms of his tone and policy views. Trump, well, isn't.
That's not to say Trump's tweet-tweet-cable-hit-tweet-travel-to-state approach will win him the nomination. It probably won't. Like them or hate them, voters in places like Iowa and New Hampshire have the expectation that the presidential candidates will travel to their state relentlessly and, yes, kiss their collective rings. Trump is not a ring-kisser.
But, it says something about our culture -- and the way we consume and cover politics -- that Trump's kinda, sorta campaign has, to date, worked incredibly well. Trump is running a national campaign for a process that has always been built on cultivating each of the early-voting states like the most delicate of flowers. Sure, he goes to Iowa -- he'll be there for the state fair this weekend -- but he doesn't really cater to Iowans in any meaningful way. Or promise them he will be back there every week from now until the election.
That frankness -- or lack of pandering -- is, of course, what appeals to people (in Iowa and elsewhere) who are drawn to Trump. But can a candidate tweet and talk on cable all the way to the presidential nomination?