For the third time in five months, Donald Trump has overhauled his presidential campaign’s leadership team. As of this morning, Kellyanne Conway is now the Republican candidate’s campaign manager – a post that was apparently vacant since June – and Stephen Bannon, of Breitbart News notoriety, is Trump’s campaign CEO.
But the closer one looks at why this shake-up happened, the harder it is to believe. Consider this tidbit, for example, from the Washington Post’s reporting:
While Trump respects [campaign chairman Paul] Manafort, the aides said, he has grown to feel “boxed in” and “controlled” by people who barely know him. Moving forward, he plans to focus intensely on rousing his voters at rallies and through media appearances.Trump’s turn away from Manafort is in part a reversion to how he ran his campaign in the primary with then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Lewandowski’s mantra was “let Trump be Trump” and Trump wants to get back to that type of campaign culture, the aides said.
That’s right, as far as the Republican nominee is concerned, Americans have seen a constrained version of Donald J. Trump in recent months. This has been the GOP candidate at his most guarded.
In other words, with his new team in place, Trump intends to stop pulling his punches and start being even more outlandish in the presidential campaign’s final 12 weeks.
It’s not quite an acceptance of defeat, but it’s something similar: a decision to stop caring what might appeal to a broad national audience and start doing what makes the candidate feel good.
And to that end, Trump has chosen a CEO who will encourage him to do precisely what he wants to do anyway. The New York Times’ report added:
Mr. Bannon has no experience with political campaigns, but he represents the type of bare-knuckled fighter that the candidate had in Corey Lewandowski, his combative former campaign manager, who was fired on June 20.Mr. Bannon has been a supporter of Mr. Trump’s pugilistic instincts, which the candidate has made clear in interviews he is uncertain about suppressing. He is also deeply mistrustful of the political establishment, and his website has often been critical of Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader.
If Republican officials were already debating whether or not to give up on Trump, and divert limited resources to congressional campaigns, the fact that Breitbart News has effectively taken control of the GOP presidential nominee’s operation is likely to tip the scales.
GOP consultant Rick Wilson told the Washington Post, “If you were looking for a tone or pivot, Bannon will pivot you in a dark, racist and divisive direction. It’ll be a nationalist, hateful campaign. Republicans should run away.”
For more background info on Trump’s new top aides, Bloomberg Politics published an interesting profile on Bannon last fall – it described him as “the most dangerous political operative in America” – while Media Matters has published overviews of Breitbart News and Kellyanne Conway’s controversial record.