President Donald Trump heads to Cincinnati on the first of what his staff hopes will be a series of visits across the country to sell his legislative agenda — but that will mean convincing their boss to suffer through a night in a bed other than his own.
Aside from a recent international trip, Trump hasn’t spent the night anywhere except the White House or his resorts in Florida and Bedminster, New Jersey. He hasn’t been west of the Mississippi since just before his election in November, or taken a domestic flight longer than three hours.
Story Continued Below
In Cincinnati, Trump will promote his infrastructure plan, then return to Washington in time for the evening news.
But some say Trump is missing opportunities that would make his legislative unveilings more compelling, like his announcement on Monday in the East Room of the White House of a plan to privatize the Federal Aviation Administration.
“Why do the FAA event on campus?” asked Republican strategist Alex Conant, who worked in the communications office for President George W. Bush. “He could have gone on Air Force One to any airport in the country and would have had a more appropriate backdrop that would have got more support for the initiative.”
But despite the urge to get the president out talking to his base to build a mandate for his agenda — which so far includes an unpopular health care plan, tax reform and infrastructure — aides say they know not to push too hard against their boss, who feels energized when he’s in familiar settings socializing with friends.
“Trump likes to be able to sleep in his bed, keep an eye on the news and solicit feedback from his friends and confidants, whether that’s at the White House, Mar-a-Lago or Bedminster,” said the White House aide.
“It’s not a point of frequent of discussion, it’s just a fact. It’s a reality of what we’ve done to this point,” the aide added.
“The president is absolutely the best advocate for the legislative agenda and it would be irresponsible for the staff not to plan smart travel for the president of the United States,” said White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “We all work to make things as effective and efficient as possible whether the president is working from the White House or on the road.”
Like Trump, Bush would often return to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he spent 490 days of his two terms. The Secret Service installed a helipad at Ronald Reagan’s ranch in California so that he could easily return home.
Bush, coming off the contentious 2000 election and looking to build support for his tax plan, had flown to 26 states in his first 100 days to rally public support behind him. President Barack Obama had held 15 events and one fundraiser, and visited 12 countries, at this point in his first year.
During the campaign, Trump made a point of always traveling back to his home base at Trump Tower in New York City. One notable exception: the night he spent at a Holiday Inn in Iowa just before the 2016 caucuses.
After the third presidential debate in Las Vegas, Trump insisted on flying back to Trump Tower.
Trump has held 20 rallies and events since his inauguration. Four of those events were located near one of his Trump properties in New Jersey and Florida, where he spent the night.
Before the foreign trip, Trump complained to staff about how much detests sleeping on Air Force One, which includes two twin beds that can convert into couches. Aides responded by consolidating visits to five countries in the Middle East and Europe during the president’s nine-day tour last month.
But once they get him out of the White House, aides say, Trump gets more energized. “He’s still our most powerful communications tool,” said the aide. “Nothing we could ever manufacture could get as much attention as Donald Trump in front of microphone.”