Paul Manafort, whom the campaign recently brought in to manage Trump's convention operations, has stepped into a larger leadership role in the campaign and been given a $20 million budget to spend in coming primary states, a senior campaign source told NBC News. A meeting took place last Saturday in New York to lay out the new staffing structure, the source confirmed. The meeting was first reported by Politico. [...] Manafort's ascension to the helm of the Trump operation means campaign manager Corey Lewandowski's role has been recast. While Lewandowski on Tuesday told NBC News in an email it's "not true" his position has been diminished, several sources close to the candidate and to Lewandowski tell NBC News that he is now essentially working as a scheduler and body man for Trump.
For months, if it seemed Donald Trump's presidential campaign had an amateurish feel, it was an impression rooted in fact. The New York developer has never before sought public office, and he surrounded himself with staffers with limited backgrounds -- at least in part because more seasoned campaign professionals gravitated towards more traditional candidates.
As it happens, none of this has hurt Trump's candidacy. On the contrary, Republican voters have liked what they've seen, and Trump has led the crowded GOP field for most of the last year. The fact that the campaign and the candidate didn't always seem to know what they were doing didn't prevent Trump from winning 20 primaries and caucuses, more than the rest of his rivals combined.
But the Republican race has reached a new phase, and as NBC News reported yesterday, Trump's operation is "in the midst of a massive restructuring and re-strategizing effort aimed at shoring up Trump's delegate lead."
As part of this shake-up, also note that Trump's national field director resigned on Monday. The post had been held by Stuart Jolly, who, as the Washington Post noted, "had never worked on a national campaign before," but who worked with Lewandowski at the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity.
This news came a week after Scott Walker's former campaign manager, Rick Wiley, joined Team Trump.
BuzzFeed added, "Far from a tight-knit family of blood brothers, The Donald's inner circle has been purged and repopulated many times over the years." We appear to be watching this process unfold once again right now.
But will it work?
Staff shake-ups in prominent presidential campaigns are hardly unheard of, though they have a mixed track record. In Howard Dean's 2004 campaign, for example, the governor actually had three different campaign managers over the course of a year, with the last switch coming in late January. Less than a month later, Dean ended his candidacy.
At the same time, in John Kerry's campaign, the senator replaced his campaign manager in November 2003. Two months later, Kerry won the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, en route to winning the Democratic nomination with relative ease.
That said, I know of no other modern campaign operation that experienced a complete overhaul this late in the process. It's one thing to swap out key personnel before voting begins in earnest; it's something else to dramatically change the team when the primary phase is nearly over.
That said, by many measures, Trump has made changes for the better, at least as far as experience and professionalism are concerned. Whether or not the new team will push the candidate to be more "presidential," to the disappointment of Republican voters who seem to appreciate Trump's more offensive rhetoric, remains to be seen.