Trailing in the polls, Trump the candidate promotes Trump the brand on the campaign trail

As his poll numbers have declined in the closing weeks of the presidential race, Donald Trump has begun to engage in barely veiled promotions of his business brand off the campaign trail, dragging reporters to his marquee properties in between his campaign events.

On Tuesday, Trump added an abrupt appearance at the Trump National Doral, one of his gilded golf courses and resorts in Florida, ostensibly to demonstrate how many employees he has there and how much they admire him as a boss.

On Wednesday, instead of spending the morning in one of the battleground states where polls show him trailing Hillary Clinton, Trump held a ribbon-cutting at his elaborately remade hotel at the Old Post on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.

The stops are a remarkable display of personal promotion by a presidential nominee, raising questions about whether the businessman, who has lived by the mantra that “all publicity is good publicity,” is at least partly casting his eye beyond the 2016 race, and toward bolstering the brand that bears his name.

In a telephone interview, Trump rejected such questions and said he was demonstrating his credentials for the presidency at such events by showing the type of efficiencies he would bring to government.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla / Getty ImagesRepublican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump cut the ribbon at the new Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC

“Today it was about jobs. Tomorrow it’s about being under budget and ahead of schedule,” Trump said, referring to the Washington hotel.

His critics saw a different motive.

“This is the worst message to send to all of those true and loyal Trump supporters out there who actually did believe in him and actually did have a stake in this election,” said Kevin Madden, a former adviser to Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee.

“With less than two weeks to go until Election Day,” Madden added, “Mr. Trump is repaying them by using their campaign to showcase his hotel. He said he wouldn’t let them down, but he already has. They have a right to be disappointed.”

During the Republican primaries, Trump often used his properties as a backdrop for election night news . He has regularly sprinkled references to his hotels into his , intertwining his business and campaign interests.

But those news conferences were at least tethered to the rhythms of the election cycle. Even a raucous one at Trump’s Washington hotel in , where he haltingly tried to unwind his false claims about President Barack birthplace, was initially intended to highlight his support from military leaders.

Trump’s event Tuesday at Doral, and the ribbon-cutting Wednesday at the new Trump International Hotel in Washington, had nothing to do with the daily grind of the final two weeks of the national campaign, burning valuable time that could have been spent courting voters.

The Doral event was announced with little notice Tuesday morning.

“Would anybody like to say a few words about working for Trump?” Trump asked his housekeeping staff and other employees in front of nearly two dozen media members.

Evan Vucci / Associated Press
Evan Vucci / Associated PressAn of Republican Trump grabs his tie as they pose for photographs during an event at Trump National Doral, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016

When an employee took Trump up on his request, the joked, “Better say, ‘Good,’ or I’ll say, ‘You’re fired!’ ”

Framed by a grand beige building, with marble fountains in the background, Trump opened his remarks at Doral promoting the success not of his campaign but of his golf resort. He insisted that his new hotel in Washington was doing great business, asserting that “bookings are through the roof.”

In fact, the hotel opened in September, and it has struggled and slashed some rates as it coped with a lack of bookings for major holiday parties, according to reports, which Trump denied.

“Every night it’s become the place where Washington is going,” he said.

The Wednesday was less a ribbon-cutting than a condensed version of a Trump campaign event, as he quickly moved from thanking his family to criticizing Clinton’s embrace of Obama’s health care plan, lamenting the status of the “depleted military” and vowing to fix a broken tax code and educational system.

Evan Vucci / Associated Press
Evan Vucci / Associated PressRepublican presidential listens to a speaker during a meeting at Trump National Doral, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016, in Miami

“Today is a metaphor for what we can accomplish for this country,” Trump said.

Clinton, at a campaign event Wednesday in Florida, seized on the hotel event, accusing Trump of relying “on undocumented workers to make his project cheaper.”

Underscoring the oddity of the event, the political reporters who attended the ribbon cutting were handed a four-page glossy brochure with a property overview, accommodations listings, amenities and photos of guest rooms, the grand atrium and “The Spa by Ivanka Trump.”

Brand promotion is perhaps not surprising for a candidate who kicked off his campaign at the Trump Tower in . When Trump contemplated running for president in 2000, he said that he might be the first candidate to run for the White House and actually make money doing it. He made the remark in reference to paid speeches he was giving when he was exploring whether to run.

For a time in the 2016 race, that boast was prescient: Trump used money raised from campaign donors to pay for his private aircraft, to reimburse his children for expenses and to buy copies of his first book, “The Art of the Deal.”

Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg
Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, second right, speaks as his sons Eric Trump, right, Donald Trump Jr., left, and his daughter Ivanka Trump listen during the grand opening ceremony of the Trump International Hotel in Washington

But Trump’s brand has taken some nicks during the course of a slashing campaign in which he has repeatedly made incendiary remarks about women, Muslims, immigrants and African-Americans. There have also been efforts afoot to take his name off several residential towers he built years ago on the West Side of Manhattan.

For Republicans like Madden, Trump’s recent behaviour is only confirming suspicion that the candidate sees the campaign for the highest office in the country as an advertising soapbox for the Trump brand.

Not everyone sees a downside to his behaviour.

Rob Gleason, the Republican Party chairman in Pennsylvania, shrugged off questions about the candidate’s schedule.

“He’s been here a lot in Pennsylvania,” Gleason said, adding that Trump was simply showcasing “positive things that he’s been able to do.”

“That’s why people like him,” he said. “That’s the change message that we’re trying to get across.”

About Maggie Haberman And Nick Corasaniti, The New York Times