Donald Trump, whose big Super Tuesday night brings him one step closer to the November ballot, has been running a general election campaign from the beginning.
Trump and his inner circle never advertised this, of course, and are amused by how the media have largely missed the strategy.
While Hillary Clinton, who also had a big day yesterday, had her aides leak details to the New York Times and Washington Post of how she’s planning a general-election assault on Trump, the Republican front-runner has had his eye on the fall since day one.
People familiar with his approach say some strategic elements evolved as the campaign unfolded. There was no 100-page memo plotting it out in advance. But this mindset explains why Trump has done certain things that are wildly unorthodox in a Republican primary race, much to the anger and consternation of leading conservative politicos and pundits.
One linchpin of this strategy came in Trump’s announcement speech, when he stirred controversy by saying that illegal Mexican immigrants included criminals and rapists. That, and his vow to build a wall across the border, gave him credibility with the conservative base. Whenever Trump would take a more moderate stance that might alienate that base, he could just pivot back to his tough immigration stance.