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Even after four years, it can be jolting: Donald Trump’s campaign speech stops, the audience roars and the P.A. system blares the Rolling Stones song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Watching on TV, you know it’s coming — it always does — but it still manages to surprise.
Except, perhaps, if you’re Linda McMahon.
“I first met President Trump at a Rolling Stones concert in New Jersey,” McMahon said with a chuckle during an interview for POLITICO’s Women Rule podcast. “Our relationship really was built through business activities. He was always a very good business partner.”
Now, as the president launches his 2020 reelection campaign, McMahon — the former WWE executive and former chairwoman of the Small Business Administration — is chairing America First Action, the pro-Trump super PAC. The mission? Ensure that, unlike Mick Jagger, Trump will get exactly what he wants. And what he wants is another term in the White House.
“The goal for the super PAC is $300 million, and so that is clearly targeting a lot of large-money donors … to come in to clearly help us get to that bottom-line number,” McMahon said.
America First Action is planning to focus its resources on six states: Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Trump won all six in 2016, but early polls have him badly behind in several of them as his 2020 campaign gets off the ground.
“We believe those six states are going to be key to the president winning reelection,” McMahon said. “We will be doing polling, we’ll be doing voter registration, we’ll be doing focus groups on the super PAC side, as well as on the (c)(4) side” — a reference to America First Policies, the 501(c)(4) nonprofit incorporated to promote the Trump campaign’s “America First” policy.
Though PAC work is new to McMahon, the rigors of campaigning are not. She twice ran for U.S. Senate in her home state of Connecticut, spending roughly $100 million of her own money over the course of unsuccessful efforts in both 2010 and 2012.
“I did not fundraise. Did very, very little fundraising — hardly any at all the first time; a little bit more the second time,” she said. “I self-funded those campaigns because I didn’t want to hold an allegiance for anyone.”
Now, fundraising from big-ticket donors is her full-time gig.
But McMahon told POLITICO that you shouldn’t expect a rocky transition, citing what she sees as some of the important lessons she learned as a business executive.
“Women don’t often toot their own horn enough, and when they’re going in to ask for funding, they’re not often prepared with the business plan and make the sell as hard as they should with the confidence that they should,” McMahon said. “It’s no different from what men need to do to do the same thing, but men typically go in with a higher level of confidence.”
To hear more from Linda McMahon — including how she balanced work and life at a job where she worked with her husband and children — listen to the full podcast here. Women Rule takes listeners backstage with female bosses for real talk on how they made it and what advice they have for women looking to lead.
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