Trump is going back to being Trump - that's a big problem for Republicans

By Chris Cillizza analysis

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves as he leaves a campaign rally in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Photo / AP
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves as he leaves a campaign rally in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Photo / AP

Donald Trump's decision to depose campaign chief Paul Manafort in favour of two loyalists signals one thing.

The Republican presidential nominee's brief flirtation with being a more packaged and conventional candidate is over.

Trump wants to win or, more likely, lose on his own terms - by being exactly who he has been throughout his life.

In April, Manafort was brought into a campaign that was flailing as it tried to transition from gritty outsider to presumptive nominee.

He replaced Corey Lewandowski, an outspoken advocate of the "let Trump be Trump" strategy.

The move was seen at the time as Trump's acknowledgment that the sort of say-anything-at-any-time strategy that had carried him to a shocking primary victory was insufficient to the general election challenge he now faced.

It was also regarded as a bow to the power of the Trump children, who had long agitated for Lewandowski to be removed, and an attempt by Trump to reach out to a party establishment he had lambasted during his rapid rise to the Republican nomination.

The pivot that many expected would come with Manafort's hire never really happened. Trump would occasionally pay lip service to the need to unite the party and, yes, would read a speech off a teleprompter from time to time.

But, his heart was never in it - and he was terrible about hiding that fact. As the months passed following Manafort's hire and Trump watched his once-beloved poll numbers falter, it became increasingly clear that he was fed up with all of the talk about the need to turn over a new leaf or do anything fundamentally different than he had done while winning the Republican nomination.

Trump's interview with a Wisconsin TV station yesterday - before the staff shake-up went public - sums up his mindset at this point in the campaign.

"I am who I am," Trump said. "I've gotten here in a landslide and we'll see what happens."

What that quote - and the subsequent staff moves - should tell you is that Trump believes he made a mistake in bowing to establishment pressure and bringing in a veteran hand like Manafort to oversee things. Trump sees his current problems in the race as deriving not from being too much of himself but from not being enough of himself.


WHAT THE POLLS SAY
Data from RealClearPolitics.com

1 National poll average
Hillary Clinton 47.2% (+6 over Trump)
Donald Trump 41.2%

2 Favourability ratings
Clinton minus 10.9 (+18.3 over Trump)
Trump minus 29.2

3 Betting odds to win
Clinton 80%
Trump 20%

4 Electoral College map
270 required to win
Toss-up states included:
Clinton 272 (+118 over Trump)
Trump 154
No toss-up states:
Clinton 362
Trump 176


What moving out Manafort and elevating Kellyanne Conway and Stephen Bannon should tell you is that Trump has decided that he is going to run the last three months - or so - of the campaign on his own terms. Win or lose, he is going to go out being himself.

This is a prospect that should send shock waves of terror through the Republican establishment that had been hoping against hope that a Trump pivot was waiting somewhere around the next corner. (The truth is that the "Let Trump be Trump" movement never was truly abandoned amid the Manafort reign because, well, Trump didn't want to let it go.)

Conway and Bannon are outspoken voices in favour of Trump letting loose - against Hillary Clinton, against the media and, perhaps most importantly, against the Republican establishment. If you thought Trump's initial unwillingness to endorse the likes of Speaker Paul Ryan or senators Kelly Ayotte and John McCain were noteworthy, you ain't seen nothing yet.

The next three months will be Trump Unbound. In a way, it all makes sense. Trump has always been totally sui generis as a politician; there is nothing like him now nor has there ever been - at least in modern presidential history.

So, why not let the candidate follow his own north star rather than try to force him to conform to the traditional norms of campaigns? If Trump is going to lose - and that is a likely bet today - let him lose on his own terms.

All of which is well and good for Trump. It is, after all, his campaign to do with what he likes. But, the prospect of an even less-disciplined Trump who is even less loyal to or concerned about the national party which he is ostensibly leading will make the lives of downballot GOP incumbents and challengers hell over the next 83 days.

The most difficult thing for Republicans trying to grapple with what Trump means for their own electoral prospects has always been his unpredictability. His staff moves just ensured he's going to get even less predictable in the race's closing stretch.

- Washington Post

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