Republished with permission from Steve Schmidt
It was in 1942 that presidents got the Ferdinand Magellan, their own specially designed railway car. That year, with World War II in full swing, Franklin Roosevelt’s security team felt that he needed to be better protected.
The picture below was taken aboard. The 1948 election is one that President Biden’s campaign team should be meditating about at least four times a day. President Truman gave 347 speeches from the rear platform.
Ronald Reagan was the last president of the United States to use the presidential rail car in 1984 when he won 49 states in the Electoral College. When his chief strategist was asked how the president liked campaigning by rail his response was that “the president loved it.”
President Biden, who loves trains, would love it too.
The Ferdinand Magellan is a singular car. Magnificent doesn’t begin to describe the train car, which was forged from American iron and steel in the hands of America’s skilled workers.
The armored train car, built in 1929 by the Pullman Company, is the heaviest passenger car ever to move down rail track in America. It was designated as Rail Car One.
The Ferdinand Magellan will always be associated with FDR. He travelled more than 50,000 miles aboard it through the most tumultuous events in human history and three successful reelection campaigns.
The car is now situated at the Gold Coast Museum in Florida. It represents good luck. It has been a campaign platform for five successful reelection efforts by presidents of both parties. FDR‘s inaugural journey on the train took him to Miami before he flew across the ocean to meet the Allied leaders in Casablanca. Good luck is important on presidential campaigns, and most winning efforts are appropriately superstitious.
The Biden campaign should call the museum and make a deal. It is time for a president of the United States to take the Ferdinand Magellan out for a spin and into the American heartland. It is time for the president to take his message from Valley Forge and Mother Emanuel AME Church across the country towards the next whistle stop—where a chapter of the American story has been written. The president must take the fight to Trump every single day.
Here is the route for a suggested trip—the US Civil Rights Trail:
There are two finite commodities on a US presidential campaign that drive every decision in the end: time and money. While both are routinely mismanaged in modern campaigns, the misallocation of cash receives far more coverage than wasted time. Time spent wisely or not is often the determinative factor in a political effort.
Time management is a core strategic consideration in any political campaign where there will never be enough to accomplish what must be done. Wasting it is always destructive on a campaign. Whether the waste and related paralysis is caused by infighting, bureaucracy, or indecision, every second matters in a business where the clock is counting down, pressure constantly increasing and fatigue ever deepening.
The president must apportion time to campaign across the whole country over the coming months in the style he evidenced in Pennsylvania and South Carolina. There can be no wasted days where Trump is not confronted, pilloried, mocked, humiliated, antagonized, provoked and put off balance. This cannot be accomplished with the approach of the 2020 campaign, or from the White House grounds.
The president must fight, and he must do it in front of the American people. There is a notion growing among elite DC Democrats that President Biden should not deign to debate Donald Trump. It might well be the stupidest idea in American political history. It will certainly be lethal. The president of the United States of America doesn’t hide out from bullies and fascists in an election year. What the president does is use the full weight of his moral authority and office to speak to the better angels of our nature against the MAGA wretchedness. There is no evading the direct confrontation ahead. It is necessary, urgent and potentially decisive.
Each day there will be dozens of lazily reported media stories that perfectly synthesize and reflect the prevailing conventional wisdom of the Washington power class, Biden campaign chirpers, and the political media as institutions.
Most political stories are constructed around the anxieties of Washington insiders, who are severely restricted in their capacity to speak truth to power for fear of retaliation in some form—even if it is simply in their imaginations or Twitter feeds. They communicate anonymously to political reporters, who aggregate the sum of the worries, distill them into fears and present them as fate. There are three basic fears articulated through an accumulation of blind quotes in most stories about President Biden in 2024:
- He has some of the lowest approval levels in presidential history
- According to polls, he is currently losing the Electoral College if Donald Trump can flip Michigan and Georgia, plus one more battleground state—Arizona, Wisconsin or Pennsylvania
- He is 81 years old
I’m not worried—I’m very concerned [about Biden’s standing within the Black community].
He also said:
I have no problem with the Biden administration and what it has done. My problem is that we have not been able to break through that MAGA wall in order to get to people exactly what this president has done.
There have been so many stories that refer to the White House reelection plan as a “Rose Garden strategy,” and present the scheme as being conceived and designed to lower the risk of losing control of the message. The strategy isn’t mitigating risk. It is increasing it, and playing right into Donald Trump’s hands.
In fact, the Rose Garden is an unsafe place from which to campaign because, while it is true the president calls the White House home, so does the White House press corps, which means the president is surrounded—and not by love. He’s like George Custer, minus righteous opponents.
The president doesn’t need protection by his staff. He needs liberation from them. Let Biden be Biden.
The moment requires a fighting president who can tell the truth on MAGA and make it feel like hell.
The moment requires the ferociousness and straight talk of Harry Truman.
President Biden took the fight to MAGA this week. It’s time for the White House to lay out the next 20 visits. It’s game on, and there is much on the line.
The election must be about Trump.
Mark my words: whomever the election is about is the person who is going to lose.
Let me say it again. The election must be about Trump—again.
Give ‘em hell, Joe.
Steve Schmidt is a political analyst for MSNBC and NBC News. He served as a political strategist for George W. Bush and the John McCain presidential campaign. Schmidt is a founder of The Lincoln Project, a group founded to campaign against former President Trump. It became the most financially successful Super-PAC in American history, raising almost $100 million to campaign against Trump's failed 2020 re-election bid. He left the group in 2021.