The Trump campaign announced early today in a major shake-up that two significant political personalities are being brought onboard to bolster the campaign staff. In a statement, Donald Trump announced that Steve Bannon – a filmmaker and former Wall Street banker – is temporarily stepping down from his post at Breitbart News to serve as Campaign CEO. Bannon brings a varied background, not only in media but also in the service of conservative causes.
Getting a promotion is pollster Kellyanne Conway, who will serve as campaign manager. Saying, “I want to win,” Trump said in a statement, “I’m bringing on fantastic people who know how to win and love to win.” The current campaign chairman, Paul Manafort will remain in his position for now. Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates, is also staying on. "I look at it as an expansion of the team. Paul remains as Chairman," Conway told CNN.
Reportedly, however, both Manafort and Gates will be sidelined to Washington DC. Trump shows little evidence of seeking to please his Republican critics and thus moderate his rhetoric. He told a Wisconsin radio station WKDT yesterday: "I am who I am. It's me. I don't want to change. Everyone talks about, 'Oh are you going to pivot?' I don't want to pivot. You have to be you. If you start pivoting you are not being honest with people."
The shakeup came as polls show Hillary Clinton’s star has risen according to recent polls. The polling average formulated by RealClearPolitics shows her up 6.1 percent in national polling, having risen steadily since the Democratic National Convention. Paying tribute to Bannon and Conway, Trump said that they have “the experience and expertise needed to defeat Hillary Clinton.” He added, “I am committed to doing whatever it takes to win this election, and ultimately become President because our country cannot afford four more years of the failed Obama-Clinton policies which have endangered our financial and physical security.” Filling out his stable of experts, Trump has veteran political operative Roger Stone, as well as former Fox News exec Roger Ailes.
Who is Steve Bannon?
Bannon is stepping down temporarily as Executive Chairman of Breitbart News in order to focus on the campaign. Originally from a working-class family of Norfolk, Virginia, he served as an officer in the Navy and holds two graduate degrees. He also worked as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs and also a writer at The Huffington Post. He is the host of a radio talk show on the Sirius network. He has produced and directed several political films, including one about Sarah Palin. He has no direct experience at running political campaigns.
On CNN's "New Day" today, Corey Lewandowski – Trump’s former campaign manager – said Bannon is a "win at all costs" operator. "Steve is a person who's had unparalleled success in the private sector," Lewandowski said. "He is a person who, I think a little bit like myself, is a bit of a street fighter, a person who is willing to go right at his opponents." Bannon has been described by some as a “street fighter.”
Bannon is the founding chairman of the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), a nonprofit that seeks to uncover fraud, waste and abuse in government. He has been involved in GAI investigations targeting both the Democratic and Republican political establishments. Bannon is a frequent critic of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). GAI President Peter Schweizer is publishing this fall “Bush Bucks: How Public Service and Corporations Helped Make Jeb Bush Rich,” aimed at former Republican presidential candidate and Florida governor Jeb Bush.
While at Breitbart, Bannon vehemently denied accusations that Trump paid Breitbart for favorable coverage of Trump’s campaign. During his tenure there, he weathered a storm of controversy over allegations made by Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields that Trump campaign manager Corey Lewankowski had assaulted her. Breitbart editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro supported Fields’ accusations and both resigned. Later, criminal charges against Lewandowski were dropped.
Another connection between the Breitbart organization and Trump is Breitbart journalist Milo Yiannopoulos. The UK-born Yiannopoulos is a fervent admirer of Trump. This year, Yiannopoulos went on his self-proclaimed “Dangerous Faggot Tour” at various universities where he engaged in vigorous debate with leftists and feminists while proclaiming his admiration for Trump.
New Campaign Manager
Kelly Anne Conway served until recently as the campaign’s pollster. She is a lawyer and former adjunct professor of law. She entered the political business by taking a job with the Wirthlin Group, which worked closely with Ronald Reagan. Before founding her own firm, The Polling Company, she worked for Luntz Research Companies. She has worked for several Republican luminaries, including Jack Kemp, Dan Quayle, Newt Gingrich, Fred Thompson, and Trump’s vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence. She previously worked on Sen. Ted Cruz’s primary challenge against Trump. A married mother of four children, she has been a critic of feminism.
Ben Shapiro and sour grapes
In an op-ed today at Daily Wire, former Breitbart editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro wrote that he quit because management had “decided that loyalty to Donald Trump outweighed loyalty to their own employees, helping Trump smear one of their own reporters, Michelle Fields.” In an earlier article, Shapiro wrote that Bannon’s influence at the media outlet was contrary to the legacy of its founder: Andrew Breitbart. “Andrew built his life and his career on one mission: fight the bullies. But Andrew’s life mission has been betrayed. Indeed, Breitbart News, under the chairmanship of Steve Bannon, has put a stake through the heart of Andrew’s legacy. In my opinion, Steve Bannon is a bully, and has sold out Andrew’s mission in order to back another bully, Donald Trump.”
Moreover, Shapiro said, Bannon has turned Breitbart into “Trump’s personal Pravda.” Shapiro has gone on to write at National Review, the flagship conservative magazine that has slammed Trump repeatedly, as well as DailyWire. Today, Shapiro got personal in an attack on Trump. In a CNN interview, Shapiro said called Trump a "turd tornado" in response to the latest hires at the Trump campaign. "As you probably know, I think Donald Trump is a turd tornado, but I also understand that he has no capacity whatsoever to control himself and be the sort of staid politician that so many people want him to be," Shapiro said. "So telling him to double down is not necessarily a terrible strategy. If he is going to go down, he is going to go down being Trump and that's probably what Steve Bannon is telling him to do."
Polls in swing states
By averaging the polling date for battleground states, POLITICO found that in a weighted average for the eleven states, Clinton leads 45.2% to Trump’s 39%.
The stakes for the two candidates in those battleground states are the Electoral College votes to be gained: Florida 29, Pennsylvania 20, Michigan 16, Wisconsin 16, Ohio 18, North Carolina 15, Colorado 9, Nevada 6, Iowa 6, Virginia 5, New Hampshire 4.
While Trump has seen arenas full of supporters, they have largely taken place in red states, such as those in the Deep South and the Midwest, where he already has the votes. This election will come down to the swing states, as it did in 2000 in the contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
Trump must win Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania in order to secure enough Electoral College votes to get him into the winner’s circle. Trump no longer has to rally supporters in Texas, for example. He does need to motivate his supporters in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. And in Indiana, Trump leads Clinton 47 to 37, largely due to the fact that his running mate Mike Pence is the governor there.
In an August 16 poll released by Monmouth University, it was shown that Clinton leads in Florida at 48 to Trump at 39, Libertarian Gary Johnson at 9, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein at 3. For Ohio, on August 10 the NBC/WSJ/Marist poll of Ohio voters showed Clinton at 39, Trump at 35, Johnson at 12, and Stein at 4. In a head to head matchup, the same polling organization put Clinton at 43 and Trump at 38. The NBC/WSJ/Marist poll for Pennsylvania showed Clinton at 48 and Trump at 37. And the Quinnipiac University poll of August 9 showed Clinton at 52 percent as opposed to Trump at 42 percent.
Manafort shaken but not stirred
The effective demotion of Manafort may be seen as a triumph for Lewandowski, now a paid CNN commentator, who was fired just two months ago from his position as campaign manager after sniping with Manafort. There were also reported differences with Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner. Lewandowski has said that he still consults frequently with Trump.
Secret Ledger in Ukraine Lists Cash for Donald Trump’s Campaign Chief https://t.co/7bh7iIHHaY— Corey Lewandowski (@CLewandowski_) August 15, 2016
Trump’s children: Donald, Jr., Eric and Ivanka, have influenced the campaign and mediated between Trump and Manafort, reportedly seeking to induce their father to moderate his campaign rhetoric and run a conventional campaign. Over the August 12-14 weekend, Kushner met with Bannon, Conway, Gates, and Manafort to announce the power shift.
What goes around comes around
Three days ago, Lewandowski tweeted about Manafort’s issues with clients in Ukraine. Manafort has been scrutinized over his work in Ukraine as an elections consultant. There is evidence in the form of hand-written ledgers that allegedly show that he was to receive $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments from a pro-Russian political party from 2007 to 2012. Lewandowski said last night on CNN that while Trump will be "more inclusive," Trump "knows who he is internally."
He added, "What he's going to do is remain true to himself, which is what this campaign has been about." According to CNN, Trump no longer trusts Manafort and blames reaction to a series of his remarks in recent weeks on campaign management. CNN reported that a source said that when Trump does not like how things are managed, he tries to do everything himself and thus becomes exasperated.
The hiring of Bannon and Conway may represent a rebuke of advice Trump has received from the Republicans and possibly Manafort to tone down his language. Two recent speeches, on terrorism on August 15 and on law and order on August 16, were closely scripted and had none of the fire and verve that typify Trump’s previous speeches and ostensibly off-the-cuff remarks. His exchanges with a Pakistani-American lawyer, Khizr Khan – who denounced Trump from the stage at the Democratic National Convention – and comments he which he allegedly called on Second Amendment advocates to revolt against Hillary Clinton, have been taken to be gaffes by his detractors.
These remarks have convinced some Republicans to abandon their party’s nominee and instead lend support to Hillary Clinton or Libertarian Gary Johnson. House Speaker Ryan – who is frequently targeted by Breitbart News – has also critiqued Trump’s messaging. Some Republicans have openly suggested that Trump is now a liability for down-ticket Republican races and even the Republican majority in Congress.
Weeks of negative headlines for the Trump campaign, in addition to downward trending polls in battleground states, preceded the latest switch of teammates in the Trump organization.
Rousing Wisconsin speech
Conservative pundit Byron York of the Washington Examiner described Trump’s speech in Wisconsin on August 16 as “focused, powerful, and disciplined” for its targeting of issues that disproportionately afflict black Americans. He said that his policies on crime, education, immigration, trade, jobs, and other issues will improve their more than Hillary Clinton's. He denounced the riots in Milwaukee as "an assault on the right of all citizens to live in security and live in peace," and said “Law and order must be restored."
"The main victims of these riots are law-abiding African-American citizens living in these neighborhoods," Trump continued. "It's their jobs, it's their homes, it's their schools and communities which will suffer the most as a result. There's no compassion in tolerating lawless conduct for anyone." He also slammed the Obama administration and Clinton for the "totally false" narrative of widespread police abuse across the country. "The problem in our poorest communities is not that there are too many police," Trump argued. "The problem is that there are not enough police."
"Those peddling the narrative of cops as a racist force in our society — a narrative supported with a nod by my opponent — share directly in the responsibility for the unrest in Milwaukee and many other places," Trump said. Clinton and others, he charged, "have fostered a dangerous anti-police atmosphere." Trump said, "The war on police must end, and it must end now."
"Our job is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter, or the robber, or the looter, or the violent disruptor, of which there are many. Our job is to make life more comfortable for the African-American parent who wants their kids to be able to safely — safely — walk the streets and walk to school. Or the senior citizen waiting for a bus. Or the young child walking home from school." "My opponent, Hillary, would rather protect the offender than the victim."
Paying tribute fo former New York City mayor and "my wonderful friend" Rudy Giuliani for reducing crime in the Big Apple, he said, "Imagine how many lives could have been saved, all across this country, if Democratic politicians hadn't blocked in their cities what Rudy did in New York City?" Giuliani is rumored to have contributed to the writing of the speech. Trump's remarks received waves of applause from Cheeseheads who were apparently galvanized by the violence and hatred unleashed in Milwaukee.