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Conventional Wisdom: Was Firing His Campaign Manager A Turning Point For Trump?

This is our weekly politics newsletter, Conventional Wisdom. In this edition, we’re covering the shakeup at the top of the Trump campaign. (Sign up here.)

I remember seven or so months ago when a week in my life was not such an interminable-seeming period of time. I went to work, came home, occasionally tried to give up bread and actually water my plants, etc., etc. The weeks plodded along uniformly.

Of course, that was before Donald Trump entered the realm of my daily existence.

Now, weeks are “campaign weeks,” a unit of time commensurate with “dog years.” A campaign week is an eternity, often featuring a shocking event, a quick adjustment to the new normal and increasingly frayed serotonin receptors. Last week’s earth-shattering 2016 campaign moment, the firing of Trump’s embattled campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was as noteworthy as any we’ve seen thus far in 2016’s dignified march to the White House.

Lewandowski was pushed out after a number of Trump advisers and associates, including the candidate’s children and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, voiced their concerns. As a campaign manager, Lewandowski was inclined to let “Trump be Trump,” even when his candidate was doing things like questioning the ability of a judge to do his job because of his ethnicity. Lewandowski had also gained a reputation for being a coarse-tongued hothead; among numerous accounts of crude language directed at women, he was accused of calling a former female colleague a “fucking bitch.” He gained widespread notoriety for manhandling a female reporter trying to ask Trump a question at a campaign event.

But perhaps what sealed the deal for Lewandowski is that Trump’s polling numbers have slid precipitously of late. Hillary Clinton is up nearly 7 points in the Real Clear Politics average of national polls. As you might have noticed, Trump the Candidate is fixated on where he stands in the horse race, and given his fall from numerical grace, he might have been more inclined toward shaking things up.

Lewandowski’s departure marks a turning point for the Trump operation, a pivot toward professionalization. Paul Manafort, a seasoned political consultant, is now at the helm of the campaign as it seeks to expand its infrastructure for the general election. Never fear for Lewandowski’s future, though. He quickly snapped up a job as a paid commentator at CNN.

Meanwhile, Trump didn’t see the need to calm any nerves about a campaign in turmoil — he took a couple of days off the trail to go to Scotland to open a golf course and to call the British vote to exit the European Union “a great thing.”

Other news out of the Trump campaign last week: some pretty paltry financial reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Trump has only $1.3 million in cash on hand, compared with Clinton’s $42.5 million. Ben Carson, who is no longer running for president, has about $1.8 million. On Thursday, Trump announced that he was forgiving $50 million in loans that he made to his campaign, turning them into donations and ending speculation that he might want the money back. But in saying that he could put up “unlimited cash on hand,” he was not sending a strong signal to donors that he needed their aid.

Manafort said he was confident that the organization was “not behind the Clinton campaign” and that “they’re musclebound, we’re not” — presumably a reference to the vast network of Clinton campaign workers, compared with the 30 that Trump has on the ground. The RNC does, however, have 483 paid field staffers across the country, and it’s likely that the Trump campaign will be relying heavily on them in the next few months.

One person Trump can’t rely on is bow tie-wearer extraordinaire, George Will. The conservative columnist said this week that he has left the Republican Party, citing Trump’s comments about the judge and House Speaker Paul Ryan’s continued support for the presumptive GOP nominee. And on Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wouldn’t answer a direct question about whether Trump is qualified to be president, promising that the party’s 2016 platform wouldn’t differ much from its pre-Trump incarnation.

On the Democrats’ side of things, as of last week, Bernie Sanders will be voting for Clinton. He oh-so-tepidly said “yes” when asked whether he would vote for the former secretary of state in the fall.

But Sanders hasn’t officially dropped out of the race, and a spokeswoman for his campaign later said that his answer did not amount to an endorsement of the presumptive Democratic nominee. Sounds about right.

Read more:

The Clinton Campaign Seems To Think Pennsylvania Is In The Bag by David Wasserman — Is Hillary Clinton making a mistake by not spending any advertising dollars in what could be a pivotal state?

Rubio’s Best Route To The White House May Be Through The Senate by Harry Enten — Marco Rubio’s decision to run for re-election may give him a better shot at running for president again in four years.

How To Make Sense of the Brexit Turmoil by Ben Casselman — An explainer of the economic and political implications of the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union.

Clare Malone is a senior political writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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