Donald Trump’s campaign manager on Sunday continued to fight the idea that the outspoken front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination is just playing a part for the campaign.
“You’re seeing the real Donald Trump in campaign mode talking to people who believe in his candidacy,” Paul Manafort said on “Fox News Sunday” when asked about comments he made to party officials behind closed doors last week.
“I was dealing with members of the Republican National Committee who have a different role from an organizational standpoint and they wanted to know about things like, ‘Is he going to be giving speeches on policies? Is he going to be involved in settings that are not rally oriented?’ And that was the context I was talking about,” Manafort said. “We were evolving the campaign, not the candidate, and the settings were going to start to change.”
Elsewhere, Donald Trump Jr. appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” to explain Manafort’s comments and defend his father.
“He’ll take things to a level where they need to be taken to be able to draw attention to it,” Trump Jr. said about his father’s bombastic rhetoric. “An issue that was taboo and no one wanted to touch – all of a sudden people are talking about it,” he added.
Trump Jr. said his father’s comments about building a wall along the southern U.S. border and deporting undocumented immigrants should be taken literally, but that the elder Trump will show another side of himself as the campaign continues.
“He’s switching over, getting focused on the general election where he’s going to have to talk to that broader audience,” Trump Jr. said.
Asked if the Trump family and campaign staff were planning to woo delegates to support him in the event a second ballot is needed to determine the nominee at the GOP convention in July, Trump Jr. said, “I think we’re going to do what we need to do to win to a point, but I think we want to win without having to do that. [Texas Sen.] Ted Cruz has no chance of winning this without bribing the delegates. That’s his game at this point.”
Manafort expressed optimism that there won’t be a brokered convention.
“We are running the campaign to win the votes on the first ballot, and we’re going to,” he said.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich is certainly hoping that’s not the case. He appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” to explain why he remains in the race for the nomination despite trailing Trump and Cruz in delegates.
“I’m the only one who can defeat Hillary Clinton – consistently in 15 national polls – and even the electoral college shows the same thing,” Kasich said. “At the end of it all, when we’re at the convention, I think the delegates are going to want to know who can beat Hillary.”
“Face the Nation” host John Dickerson pointed out that in 1964, Pennsylvania’s governor, Bill Scranton, made the same case against Barry Goldwater but the delegates still gave the nomination to Goldwater. Asked why things would be different this year, Kasich laughed and said, “Because if they look at history, Goldwater got smoked. We lost everything.”
Kasich is confident enough in his chances that he has approved of his campaign staff and advisers beginning to vet potential vice presidential candidates. Asked if he might announce a running mate prior to the convention to bolster his chances, Kasich said, “I think it’s always possible.”
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said on ABC’s “This Week” that the party remains split. “I think it’s going to be a close contest going into the next 60 days,” he said.
He does not believe, however, that an alternative candidate will emerge. “I’ve talked to lots of folks within the party and the conservative movement and they all conclude that it’s a dumb idea and it’s never going to work and it’s not going to happen.”
On the matter of Trump playing a part on the campaign trail, Priebus said, “I think what he’s trying to say at these rallies is that if he was just politically correct, people wouldn’t be there.”
However, Priebus said that Trump’s campaign staff also understands that it’s “important in the home stretch” that he alter his rhetoric.
“We think that tone matters and being presidential, it does matter,” Priebus said. “And I get the sense that they get that, but we’ll wait and see.”
Manafort said they do get it and Trump gets it, too.
“Campaigns are a process and Trump recognizes it,” he said. “And Trump’s attitude has been first that he had to establish the credibility of his candidacy, which he did. Then he needed to win primaries, which he did. Then he had to emerge as the presumptive nominee, which he did. And now as people are looking at him as the Republican nominee and potentially the next president of the United States, there’s another stage in the process and that’s what this is.”