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Trump Campaign: Shifts in Approach Point to Possible 'Pivot'

Trump Campaign: Shifts in Approach Point to Possible 'Pivot'

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By    |   Saturday, 20 August 2016 11:50 AM

Over the past week, Donald Trump appeared to be making some small, but perceptible shifts in his untraditional presidential campaign, but not all political watchers are convinced the long-awaited "pivot" has really arrived.

The GOP nominee kicked off the week with back-to-back scripted addresses outlining his approach to the fight against the Islamic State and then another one detailing his support for the nation's law enforcement community, delivering his speeches from teleprompters.

But on Wednesday, he announced a massive campaign shakeup, promoting GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway to become his campaign manager and bringing in Breitbart News' Stephen Bannon to act as the campaign's CEO. At first, the official campaign line was that the two were brought in to supplement work being done by campaign chairman Paul Manafort, but by Friday, Manafort resigned.

Trump's campaign issued a press statement that Manafort, who was rapidly being buried in accusations about his connections with pro-Vladimir Putin politicians in Ukraine, had stepped down. On Friday, though, Conway told WABC Radio host Rita Cosby that Manafort was asked to step down, and the decision was "mutual and a very mutually respectful decision."

And Trump's son, Eric, told Fox News that Manafort's resignation came because his father didn't want Manafort's issues "looming over" his campaign.

The campaign shakeups came just before Trump delivered two more speeches that led many watchers to declare that the pivot had come. On Thursday, he told a North Carolina rally, during yet another speech delivered with the help of a teleprompter, that he does "regret" some of his inflammatory language.

The admission came as a shock for many, as Trump has built a reputation as a candidate who does not offer apologies.

On Friday, Trump went on to deliver a speech in Michigan, where he directly sought African-American votes by slamming Democratic policies that he says have destroyed the nation's inner cities while sending much-needed jobs out of the country.

The North Carolina speech, in particular, started the talk of Trump's "pivot," with much credit for the wording given to Conway, who is widely regarded as a skilled, seasoned political expert.

But this week, while talk was starting to swirl about the changes he'd been making in his approach, Trump denied that he would pivot to meet traditional expectations.

"I am who I am," Trump told Brittany Schmidt of WKBT-TV in La Crosse, Wis. "It's me. I don't want to change. Everyone talks about, 'Oh, you've got to pivot.' I don't want to pivot. I don't want to change. You have to be you. If you start pivoting, you're not being honest with people."

Trump also credits his take-no-prisoners approach with his current position as the Republican party's presidential nominee, telling Schmidt that he has "gotten here in a landslide — and we'll see what happens."

Trump has also been tweeting less and traveling more, heading out to several states to deliver speeches and visiting flood victims in Louisiana.

There are some who hail the possibility that Trump is shifting to a more traditional note, and say this week's actions mark the beginning of his long-awaited change.

"We're beginning to see the boardroom Donald Trump," Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Lou Barletta, one of the people who sat in on a national security panel Trump conducted in New York this week, told The Hill. "I've seen it since the primary — the thoughtful, deliberative, focused executive. Call it a pivot, call it whatever you want, but I call it good that America gets to see it."

GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak, a frequent Trump critic, also told The Hill he believes the New York businessman's campaign appears to be improving.

"All of these things are encouraging," Mackowiak said. "There are still a lot of negatives out there, but these last three speeches have been the best he's done since becoming the presumptive nominee."

But not everyone is convinced, and even Manafort's resignation came along with reports that Trump had made his decision to replace the veteran strategist because he was pushing him to change his approach.

Fox News' Bill Hemmer commented on Friday that Manafort's days were numbered since last weekend, after Trump attended a fundraiser in Southampton, New York. The Fox anchor said reports had indicated Trump decided to bring in Bannon and Conway after supporters came to him at the fundraiser and told him he was being a "puppet of Paul Manafort."

"It's being reported that really ticked him off, and during the day Sunday that's when he started to think there had to be a change," Hemmer said.

Conway as well this past week said she's more concerned that Trump concentrate on issues, rather than his "style" in the race moving forward.

"It's the 87th pivot this year," GOP media strategist Rick Wilson told MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, reports Mediaite.  "Every time this happens, you know that there's a clock running. And that clock is, when does Donald Trump get his phone back and start tweeting again? When does Donald Trump start letting his verbal dysentery spray out all over the world again?"

Washington Post columnist Chris Cillizza said he is also skeptical of the talk of Trump's changed election strategy, and he doesn't believe it will work.

"One speech coming hard on a(nother) campaign shake-up then can't be — or shouldn't be — considered a pivot," Cillizza wrote Friday. "It's like losing 10 pounds on the first five days of a diet. It's not about the initial weight loss. It's about sticking to the diet plan, which usually requires an extended commitment to changing your lifestyle."

Also, Cillizza pointed out Trump has made many promises already to pivot, and it hasn't happened yet.

"Throughout the summer, pivots have been floated by his aides — led by now-deposed campaign chairman Paul Manafort — only to be ultimately dismissed by the candidate himself," he said.

A panel on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program on Friday also ridiculed the idea that Trump was making a pivot in his campaign.

"People are not stupid, okay?" frequent show panelist Donny Deutsch said. "It was not like he said one thing in the heat of the moment. People have seen what's inside of him, particularly the educated voters that he's losing. People are not idiots. And somebody doesn't get to get elected president in a do-over because they brought in a smart consultant."

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Over the past week, Donald Trump appeared to be making some small, but perceptible shifts in his untraditional presidential campaign, but not all political watchers are convinced the long-awaited "pivot" has really arrived.
Pivot, Trump, shifts, Approach
Saturday, 20 August 2016 11:50 AM
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