Follow @lynnsweetWASHINGTON — Donald Trump shook up his faltering campaign again on Wednesday, adding a data-driven pollster as campaign manager, and as CEO, a pit bull conservative news executive.
It’s a question whether there is enough time for Republican Trump to overtake Democrat Hillary Clinton, because with early voting, balloting for the general election in many states starts in October — with Illinoisans able to vote beginning on Sept. 29.
I asked one of Trump’s bigger Illinois direct donors, Tinley Park attorney John Horn, what he made of the latest Trump campaign upheaval — the second since the beginning of the summer. That’s when Trump tapped Paul Manafort to be his chairman, dumping the man who helped him win the GOP primary, Corey Lewandowski.
At the end of June, Horn and his wife and law partner Elizabeth Kelly together donated $5,400 to Trump’s main campaign fund.
“We support Donald Trump, the bottom line is the economy,” Horn said. “And his prescription for the economy is superior to Mrs. Clinton’s.” He also likes Trump on immigration and national defense.
“He hasn’t run for president before, so it is understandable that there may be a little bit of friction getting the campaign going. Luckily, this is August and not past September. We just hope that the campaign runs smoothly from here on in,” Horn said.
Follow @lynnsweetHere’s the rundown: Manafort keeps the chairman title but was demoted. Manafort was trying to fit an asymmetric operator, Trump, into a conventional election box. Trump reading from a teleprompter — as he did Tuesday in West Bend, Wis., for his speech appealing to African-Americans in the wake of the Milwaukee police shooting — keeps him from spouting off and making serious mistakes.
Trump looks miserable when he reads his lines. But he makes so many mistakes when he riffs that you can’t blame Manafort for trying.
Manafort’s play was designed to appeal to establishment Republicans, nervous big donors who don’t want to throw their money away, and voters who can’t stomach Clinton.
Clearly, though, that wasn’t working as battleground swing state polls show Trump’s chances of securing 270 electoral votes slipping from slight to remote.
Also not helping: Manafort’s Ukraine business ties with pro-Russian factions also have surfaced as an issue, with recent disclosures of his dealings detailed in New York Times and Associated Press reports.
The new campaign manager is Kellyanne Conway, a pollster and veteran GOP presidential campaign strategist, promoted after joining the Trump operation as a senior adviser on July 1.
Conway, who advised Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign and a super PAC backing Ted Cruz before he folded his 2016 White House bid, knows what she is doing — if Trump lets her do it.
Trump might have signed up Conway earlier in the primary game, but he did not want to spend money on polling when he was winning state after state. But the general election is vastly different.
The far more controversial Trump appointment is that of Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen Bannon, who will be CEO. Bannon is not quitting the conservative news outlet — just “temporarily stepping down,” the Trump campaign said.
Breitbart.com is strongly pro-Trump and actively anti-Clinton. The Breitbart readership is likely already with Trump.
In a briefing call with reporters, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said Trump has “decided to double down on his most small, nasty and divisive instincts by turning his campaign over to someone who’s best known for running a so-called news site that peddles divisive, at times racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.”
No matter how much the GOP establishment wants to clean up Trump and keep him on a teleprompter, Mook said, “he has officially won the fight to let Trump be Trump.”
Republican consultant Ryan Williams, who was Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign spokesman, told me, “Trump’s problem at this point is that he simply can’t put together the coalition needed to win the general election. He continues to preach to the choir and doesn’t build any support for his candidacy.
“And I think these moves indicate that Trump is unhappy with Paul Manafort’s attempts to make him sound more presidential, to keep him on a teleprompter and to stay on script,” Williams said. “I think we are going to see the freewheeling, divisive Trump that we saw during the primary. This is an indication that he is going to double down in that strategy, instead of making the necessary changes that are needed to put together the diverse coalition needed to win the White House.”