The media, the majority of campaign staffers, and indeed, Corey Lewandowski himself were stunned on Monday when Donald Trump fired his long-time campaign manager.
Lewandowski was a controversial and divisive figure, but his success in leading Trump to a dominant victory in the primaries could not be denied. While it’s hard to say how much Lewandowski had to do with that and how much was purely Trump, it was clear that Trump regarded his campaign manager as a valued and trusted advisor.
According to reports (denied by Trump), the billionaire’s children – Donald Trump, Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump – were instrumental in convincing their father to go in a new direction. That direction appears to include handing over the reins of the campaign to Paul Manafort, a veteran Republican strategist who has reportedly been locked in a power struggle with Lewandowski for months.
Several Republican officials and donors expressed relief at the change. RNC chief Reince Priebus told Trump last week that it was becoming increasingly difficult to work with Lewandowski.
Others hope that his departure will finally pave the way for Trump to pivot away from his more controversial comments and policies.
“It would be welcome if new people come in who have more experience and can move him to a more inclusive, more substance-oriented campaign,” GOP fundraiser Fred Malek told the New York Times.
However, Malek wasn’t completely convinced that we would see such a move. “How much the absence of a national kind of campaign is due to Corey and how much is due to Donald is kind of hard to tell. It looks to me like Trump drives his own train.”
While there’s room for Trump to improve when it comes to fundraising and loose-lipped remarks that have little to do with the election (Judge Curiel), it would be a mistake to start “acting presidential” at the expense of the very thing voters love about him. Trump’s greatest strength is that he’s not a typical politician, not a typical Republican, and not hewed in by the usual boundaries of political correctness.
At the same time, he’s facing down a political war machine that has come to the battlefield prepared, armed, and laser-focused. If Hillary Clinton was a rather weak candidate in the primaries, it’s now clear why: She was saving all of the good stuff for the general. And it can’t be ignored that if the election were held tomorrow, Trump would lose decisively.
Trump can’t win the presidency with die-hards alone. But he’s proven capable of drawing in new voters, Democrats, and independents; he’s up against an opponent with a long, troubling history; he’s a candidate of change in a year where that’s exactly what the voters want. He doesn’t need a top-to-bottom makeover to defeat Hillary. A small, calculated shift, though? Yes, that would help.