What does Donald Trump mean for speechwriters?

The GOP frontrunner is dominating the field with an ad-lib style and an arsenal of insults. Will speechwriting become less formal? Will The Donald adapt, or will he fall flat in the end?

Early last summer, a former Mitt Romney speechwriter got a call from an official who sounded her out about working for a candidate who was planning a run for president in 2016.

The caller told speechwriter Lindsay Hayes, “I’m calling on behalf of someone, and I can’t tell you who they are. But it’s a businessman, and he’s from New York. And he’s thinking of running for president.”

She remembers thinking, “OK, that narrows it down.”

She declined, but the story, which she recently told as a panel member at a Ragan speechwriting conference in Washington, D.C., captures some of the puzzle of Donald J. Trump, the likely source of the call. In a field filled with poll-tested messages and scripted candidates, Trump is famous—his critics say notorious—for off-the-cuff speaking and bare-knuckles verbal sparring. Who knew he even had a speechwriter?

His candidacy—and his success—are so unexpected that it’s no wonder speechwriters are scratching their heads over what it all means.

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