NEW YORK – Donald Trump has hired a veteran campaign operative with deep roots in the Republican Party establishment to take a senior position on his presidential campaign, as the GOP front-runner moves quickly to incorporate seasoned professionals in his inner circle.
The Trump campaign said Wednesday that Rick Wiley – who has more than two decades of experience in state and national politics and most recently served as campaign manager for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential bid – is joining the operation as national political director.
“Rick is a seasoned political expert with a very successful career in winning elections,” Trump said in a campaign statement. “He brings decades of experience, and his deep ties to political leaders and activists across the country will be a tremendous asset as we enter the final phase of securing the nomination.”
Wiley said in the statement, “Voters are frustrated with the political status quo in our country and are hungry for an outsider to shake up Washington. Donald Trump has energized millions of hard working people across the country with his no-nonsense straight talk and will bring his record of success to tackle the real problems that face our nation.”
Throughout the season, Trump has been criticized for his weak ground game in important states compared to rival Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Wiley arrives with a mandate from Trump to beef up the campaign’s field operations in the states with primaries ahead, including delegate-rich California, as well as prepare for what the Trump team views as a likely general election.
Wiley is the latest big-name hire for Trump, joining a senior team that now includes longtime GOP strategist Paul Manafort, who was hired in late March to manage the campaign’s delegate operations and summer convention plans and also has broad authority with overall campaign strategy.
By bringing on Wiley and Manafort, Trump is professionalizing what until now had been an unusually insular team led by campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, deputy campaign manager Michael Glassner, spokeswoman Hope Hicks and other Trump loyalists.
Wiley will work out of Trump’s soon-to-open office in Washington, where he can use his relationships with party leaders to build bridges on Trump’s behalf. Wiley once worked for Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus as the party’s national political director, a position from which he oversaw a $178 million budget and helped guide 2012 nominee Mitt Romney’s ground game in the general election.
In 2014, when Republicans took control of the Senate, Wiley was the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s lead consultant. He worked with Joni Ernst’s Iowa campaign in Iowa, among others, on strategy and get-out-the-vote operations.
That year Wiley also advised the Republican Governor’s Association – which was then chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, now a Trump surrogate and adviser – and oversaw the committee’s spending in states including Wisconsin, where Walker won a tough reelection fight.
Walker recruited Wiley, who has roots in Wisconsin politics and ran the state party in the mid-2000s, to manage his short-lived presidential campaign. With his signature goatee, Wiley was often at the governor’s side as a strategist and jack-of-all-trades adviser.
But Wiley’s spendthrift ways on the Walker campaign was the subject of heavy criticism, including at the time from the Trump campaign. Walker’s campaign lasted only 70 days, with the governor dropping out of the race last September after burning through roughly $7 million.The campaign spent lavishly, with a payroll of more than 80 staffers as well as dozens of consultants and vendors, according to its Federal Election Commission filings.
Walker was not Wiley’s first presidential campaign. He served as deputy national political director for Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential bid; he former New York mayor is now backing Trump. Wiley also ran the RNC’s operations in the swing state of Wisconsin for then-President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection.