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In April, a few weeks before Donald Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, he stood on a stage in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and made a bold prediction. “At some point, I'm going to be so presidential that you people will be so bored,” he said. “And I’ll come back as a presidential person.”
The remark raised a challenging question about a candidate who had shattered so many of the supposed rules of politics en route to the nomination: How would President Trump behave in the White House?
To answer that, POLITICO decided to track Trump’s every move for his first 100 days as presumptive Republican nominee. Ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt, the “first 100 days” has been a cornerstone measurement of American presidents. The aim was simple: To capture a snapshot of how this unconventional candidate who has strained the boundaries of American political discourse is evolving, and not evolving, as he seeks the nation’s highest office.
Amid the torrent of Trump that followed, there were recurring themes: staff turmoil and turnover, talk of resets followed by relapses, Trump attacking Republicans, Republicans distancing themselves from Trump, missed opportunities, flirtations with Russia, and uncomfortable associations with white nationalism. For much of the time, Trump lurched from controversy to controversy, lighting a new one as the final embers of the last burned low.
He tweeted every single day, sending more than 1,000 140-character missives, often driving news cycles, sometimes for days.
The longest-running storyline was the awkward political embrace with Speaker Paul Ryan, the self-styled ideas man for a party whose ideas Trump ran against. There was the initial snub (Day 3), the eventual endorsement (Day 31) and then 10 weeks of distancing and denunciations (Days 32, 36, 43, 45, 64 (twice), 80, 86, 90, 91, 94).
What also emerges from this 100-day review is a Trump outlook less tethered to the traditional left-right ideological spectrum and more to his binary view of winners and losers, the weak and the strong. He praises foreign strongmen like Saddam Hussein and Vladimir Putin, and casts as weak his political opponents. It's one of the reasons Trump seems never to back down, no matter the cost to himself, dragging out controversies around a judge’s ethnic heritage (Days 32-36), the use of a Jewish star atop a pile of money (Days 61-65), and his feud with the Muslim-American family of a fallen U.S. soldier (Days 87-92).
Those three episodes alone consumed 15 percent of his days.
But as much news as Trump made, much of Trump’s 100 days is a tale of time squandered: the three weeks before holding his first fundraiser, the 39 days before a swing-state tour, the 50 days before his first email solicitation for money. “Usually campaigns don’t even start until September,” said Paul Manafort, his campaign chairman, on Day 94. Trump has still not aired a general election ad.
Indeed, perhaps the most difficult missteps to measure are Trump’s neglected opportunities. He essentially ignored an inspector general’s report critical of Clinton (Day 23), stomped on the Labor Department’s worst jobs report in six years (Day 32) and posted that controversial Jewish star the same day Clinton sat down to be interviewed by the FBI (Day 61).
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