Photo: Evan Vucci (AP)

There’s no question that President Donald Trump is the single most popular politician in the Republican Party today. But, popular or not, the Republican National Committee would would apparently prefer to keep its candidates running for local offices around the country in the dark when it comes to detailed information on just how much their communities do (or don’t) love the president.

According to Republican insiders who spoke with ProPublica for a just-published report on the transformation of the GOP into the cult of Trump, the RNC has spent the past three and a half years removing a key section of the committee’s detailed “voter scores” polling data from local party officials and candidates: how Trump himself is viewed in the specific district or state in question.

Advertisement

“They don’t want you to know if it isn’t good,” former RNC chairman Michael Steele told ProPublica. “There’s a lot of data they’re sitting on that they’re not sharing.”

Katie Walsh, a former RNC chief of staff who now advises the RNC, told the site that there was nothing wrong with the arrangement.

“I don’t think most campaigns give their data out to other campaigns for free,” Walsh said. “So I don’t see why the president would be expected to. That’s all data work done by the RNC, and the head of the party is the president. So it’s his data.”

The worry, apparently, is that if local candidates have access to the RNC’s data on what makes Trump popular—or not—in a specific community, that candidate would then have the opportunity to put some daylight between themselves and the president in the hopes of boosting their own popularity at the expense of Trump’s fragile, fragile ego.

Advertisement

There are plenty of other ways Republican candidates could get a sense of how the president is seen in their local districts or states: from relying on non-party polling—which shows, nationally at least, that Trump is very unpopular—to, oh, I dunno, actually spending some time listening to their constituents. But the fact that the RNC itself seems to be willfully hamstringing its own assets and withholding data to protect the president should be a pretty good indicator that there is no separate Republican Party anymore. It’s just Trump.

I have reached out to the RNC for comment and will update if I hear back. Read the full ProPublica story here.