Donald Trump Is Turning Into The Establishment Candidate His Supporters Hate
The face of Donald Trump's campaign has gone under a yuge knife. Are these changes a last-minute surgical operation before New York? Or is Trump's campaign morphing into the very thing his supporters fear — the GOP establishment?
Here's the rundown: Just before the New York primary, Trump's campaign went through some major shakeups. On Saturday, Trump told top brass in his campaign that he wanted recent hires Paul Manafort and Rick Wiley to take on the leading roles for the May and June primaries. Wiley is a GOP strategist who managed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential campaign, and Manafort is another veteran strategist who advised the Reagan campaign. On Monday, Trump's infamous campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, saw his role in making America great again drastically reduced, and the national field director for Trump's campaign, Stuart Jolly, resigned. Jolly had been hired by Lewandowski. According to Politico, Jolly and Lewandowski declined to talk about the changes, except that Lewandowski said the Saturday talk was “a productive meeting with the senior staff to talk about our path to victory.”
Jolly said in his resignation letter to Trump: "I want to express my deepest gratitude for the opportunity to serve you and your campaign over the past seven months." He stressed that his resignation had nothing to do with the staff changes, although he called Lewandowski "one of my best friends" and "initially the reason I joined this campaign." He said to Trump that his departure "has nothing to do with you or Corey’s staff, because I have never worked with a finer group of people.”
However, to me, the timing seems too perfect. Hiring seasoned GOP advisers just before the big primary, shrinking Lewandowski's role after his bad press around reporter Michelle Fields' allegation of battery (Lewandowski was never prosecuted), and a loyalist to Lewandowski leaving in the wake of it all? Is Trump trying to clean up his act to be a bit more friendly to the mainstream, or, dare I say, the establishment?
Since when has Trump cared about bad press?, one might ask. After all, press, good or bad, seems to fuel his campaign. Then again, if there's one thing Trump does care about, it's being a tremendous winner and not a sad loser. Lately, Lewandowski has been losing. He gave an inaccurate rant on Fox News on Sunday, criticizing Florida's Republican party for being biased against Trump during delegate selection: “The chairman of the party of Florida, who is an avid and outward supporter of Marco Rubio, gets to appoint 30 of those delegates."
Politico fact-checked him on three accounts. Said chairman, Blaise Ingoglia, stayed neutral during Florida's primary, doesn’t “appoint” delegates in the first place, and is only in charge of recommending 15, not 30, delegates.
The power struggle inside Trump's campaign seems to be as much of a reality TV show as the election itself. Last summer, the campaign ousted Trump's then-top adviser Roger Stone, who reportedly grappled for control with Lewandowski, but it looks like Stone is getting the last laugh. Manafort is Stone's old friend and business partner from back in the Reagan era, and I believe Lewandowski will have to play nice with him to run a smooth campaign.
So the question, once again, is this: Is Trump recognizing his campaign weaknesses and wising up about Lewandowski? Or is he becoming a meaner, leaner, capital-P Politician all around? If it's the latter, that may spell a horror story for his supporters, who love him for his anti-establishment schtick.
But as the race gets tighter and Trump continues to stay in it, I don't find it unsurprising for Trump to begin subscribing to GOP rules in order to seal the party's nomination. To paraphrase The Dark Knight, you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a member of the Republican establishment.