President Trump famously housed his 2016 campaign staff on a floor of his gleaming Manhattan skyscraper that felt more like a storage warehouse than a corporate office, with plastic tables and folding chairs befitting the shoestring operation.
But as he gears up for reelection, the president’s campaign is relocating to a new Trump tower, one much closer to the boss.
Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign has all but finalized a decision to move its headquarters to Northern Virginia, and officials are scouting for real estate in Arlington, a densely populated suburb just across the Potomac River from Washington, according to several people familiar with the move.
The campaign has not yet signed a lease on office space, but campaign manager Brad Parscale and other officials are looking at several Arlington options, including in Rosslyn, which boasts easy Metro access.
The move is not expected until after the Nov. 6 midterm elections, at which point Trump’s reelection campaign will begin ramping up in earnest, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the plans.
Trump campaign officials declined to comment.
Currently, Trump’s campaign staff is modest and works to organize and produce the president’s “Make America Great Again” rallies, raise money and run various digital programs, among other tasks. The team has been working out of Trump Tower in New York as well as the Republican National Committee offices on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Arlington is hardly Trump country. Its residents are so liberal that the jurisdiction has taken on the moniker, “the People’s Republic of Arlington.” In 2016, for instance, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton carried Arlington County 76 percent to Trump’s 17 percent. And the county is represented in Congress by a Democrat, Don Beyer.
Historically a conservative bastion, Virginia became a presidential swing state during the Obama years but has trended Democratic since. Clinton carried the state by five points, and Gov. Ralph Northam (D) was elected handily last year. Both of the state’s U.S. senators — Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine — are Democrats. Kaine faces a challenge this year from Corey Stewart, Trump’s 2016 state campaign chairman, but polls show the Republican trailing by double digits.
Still, Virginia has a special place in Trump’s heart. He spends many weekends at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, about 26 miles from the White House, and his family real estate company also has the Trump Winery in Charlottesville.
The opening of Trump’s campaign office in Northern Virginia would presage a staff expansion and cement the shift in power of Trump’s political orbit from New York to Washington. By placing the reelection headquarters in Arlington, campaign officials would work in relatively proximity to the president and his White House aides. The commute between Rosslyn and the White House is 2.5 miles or two stops on the Metro.
This would be a different approach than the one former president Barack Obama took. He based his 2012 reelection campaign, just as he had his 2008 campaign, in his hometown of Chicago, which was designed to create a separation from the White House — in part to avoid the turf battles, chaos and divided loyalties that could result from the two staffs both working and socializing in Washington.
Obama adviser David Plouffe explained the thinking in a 2011 interview with the New York Times: “There’s not going to be two dueling power centers. The philosophy of this campaign will not be that the White House is somehow running the campaign. The people running the campaign are in charge of the campaign. That’s the way the president wants it.”
But Trump is more prone than his predecessor to micromanage his political operation, and he values having his top advisers around for in-person consultations at his every whim. It is widely expected within Trump’s circle that major 2020 campaign decisions will be made in the White House, and that some of the president’s key West Wing advisers will also continue to guide his political strategy, even after the campaign staffs up.
Trump would become the first major-party nominee to base his campaign in the Washington area since Republican John McCain, whose 2008 campaign was headquartered in Northern Virginia.
In 2016, both Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton housed their campaigns in New York, Clinton’s in Brooklyn. Four years earlier, Republican nominee Mitt Romney based his campaign in Boston, where he had served as Massachusetts governor.