Donald Trump ditches his campaign manager in yet one more sign of disarray
Donald Trump has jettisoned his longtime campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, essentially acknowledging what could barely be disguised any longer: his quest for the White House is mired in deep and damaging tumult.
Even so, the announcement went off like a bombshell coming within days of Mr Trump traveling this Friday to Scotland on what will be his first overseas strip since becoming the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, and within just weeks of the national convention in Cleveland.
“The Donald J. Trump Campaign for President, which has set a historic record in the Republican Primary having received almost 14 million votes, has today announced that Corey Lewandowski will no longer be working with the campaign,” Hope Hicks, a spokesperson, said. “The campaign is grateful to Corey for his hard work and dedication and we wish him the best in the future.”
Backers and many Republican donors will now look for signs that Mr Trump is willing to build a more traditional campaign able to wage war more effectively against Hillary Clinton as the November general election approaches. It is widely assumed that the removal of Mr Lewandowski will make way for Paul Manafort, who has by some accounts been the effective campaign manager for the last several weeks, fully to take charge.
Mr Lewandowski, 42, was at the centre of unwelcome headlines for Mr Trump this spring when a female journalist accused him of manhandling her while she attempted to approach the candidate at the close of a press conference in Florida. At the time, Mr Trump made a loud point of standing by his manager and resisting pressure to fire him even after the police filed charges. “I will not ruin his life,” he declared at the time.
The firing of Mr Lewandowski on Monday was apparently swift and, for him at least, unexpected. He had been working with television networks during the weekend to set up interviews with the boss and was still speaking with reporters about the road ahead on Monday morning.
Campaign shake-ups are a staple of presidential campaigns. Indeed, Ms Clinton’s primary campaign against President Barack Obama in 2008 was repeatedly convulsed by internal disarray and a revolving door of top aides and strategists.
The time around, Ms Clinton seems to have assembled a more stable team around her. Moreover, the sense has taken hold in recent weeks that after an undeniably successful run during the primaries, the Trump campaign is woefully unprepared for the much larger and more complex playing field that is the general election.
That in part has been reflected in a series of perceived missteps by the candidate himself. While his core of supporters are unlikely ever to abandon him he has risked alienating other potential backers – and donors – both with a response to the Orlando night club massacre that emphasized anti-immigration rhetoric and possible profiling of American Muslims and his calling for the judge running a civil case against his former Trump University to recuse himself because of his Mexican heritage.
At the more prosaic level, there has been scant sign that Mr Trump has been able to ramp up the all-important fundraising effort, having announced that he himself is not willing – or wealthy enough – to continue self-financing his quest for high office.
Thus while Ms Clinton is well on her way to meeting her goal of raising $1 billion for the general election and has already been running a blitz of TV and radio ads aimed at taking Mr Trump down, he has struggled to relieve traditional Republican donors of their dollars and is running no campaign spots as yet.
The firing of Mr Lewandowski – who had a reputation at once for brusqueness but also for being generally accessible and helpful to reporters – appeared significantly to consolidate the position of Mr Manafort who has been leading calls for a more professional and broadbased campaign.
With a record of running conservative political campaigns in his native New Hampshire before boarding the Trump presidential wagon, Mr Lewandowski was pivotal in helping him win that state’s first-in-the-nation primary after the had come up short one week earlier against Senator Ted Cruz in the Iowa caucuses.
The was in early February. Thereafter, he became a fixture on the trail, almost always travelling with Mr Trump to all his events, save for a brief two-week period when he was sidelined by the police charges in Florida, which were eventually dropped.
Once Mr Trump had secured the nomination in early May, he came under intense pressure to change his style – to appear more presidential and more willing to unite an already traumatised party. Among his aides, it was Mr Lewandowski who persistently encouraged the New York billionaire to ignore that pressure and continue to behave as he had until then.
It may be that Mr Trump has now come to regret that counsel – or that he has listened to others who believed Mr Lewandowski’s influence to be toxic, notably members of his own family. His daughter, Ivanka, was reportedly at the head of the effort to rid her father of Mr Lewandowski.