LewandOUSTED: What Trump’s Shakeup Means || LifeZette

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LewandOUSTED: What Trump’s Shakeup Means

With campaign manager out, Trump locks in general election pivot

by Brendan Kirby 

Donald Trump’s steadfast commitment to campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, which held firm through months of criticism of Lewandowski’s management style and lack of political experience, could not withstand the mounting pressure on Trump to make a real pivot to a more advanced general election effort.

The question now is the degree to which Lewandowski’s ouster on Monday represents a substantive reset of the campaign’s strategy and style.

“Nobody knows yet if it’s a serious change of direction,” said public affairs consultant and presidential historian Craig Shirley. “Donald Trump is running his own campaign … The question is, is this rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic, or is it a new direction, a fresh start?”

Shirley, who has chronicled Ronald Reagan’s career in several books, pointed out that the Gipper fired his campaign manager in 1980. But that came shortly before the New Hampshire primary. Shirley said it is unusual to switch horses this far into a campaign.

“At that date, you don’t create turmoil in a campaign by firing people,” he said. “You just simply layer them over.”

For his part, Lewandowski told CNN’s Dana Bash on Monday that he does not know why he was fired but that is is going to make sure that “every person I know is going to vote Donald Trump come this November.”

The immediate result of the shakeup is that strategist Paul Manafort appears firmly in control of the Trump campaign. Reports have swirled for months of a power struggle between Lewandowski and Manafort, who has urged Trump to adopt a more conventional campaign operation. Given that Trump has managed to become the presumptive nominee while throwing out the political rulebook, some experts were reluctant to hazard a guess about the long-term impact of Monday’s change.

“Trying to answer questions about the Trump campaign based on any previous knowledge about American politics is a gamble, at best,” quipped Mark Peterson, chairman of the Luskin School of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Peterson said the shortcomings of the Trump campaign have been on display for weeks now. After reaching near-parity with Democrat Hillary Clinton in head-to-head polling, his numbers took a slide. His negative ratings have also climbed, and he has struggled to mollify recalcitrant Republicans.

“It may be that even Mr. Trump has determined that this particular structure his campaign has had has not gone well,” Peterson said.

Donna Hoffman, who heads the political science department at the University of Northern Iowa, agreed.

“It’s significant that you’ve had kind of a shakeup in the campaign,” she said. “It does maybe signal that the people around Trump — and maybe even Trump himself — are becoming more receptive to the criticism that they’ve at least been reading about.”

Tom Whalen, a professor at Boston University, said it is hard to blame Lewandowski for Trump’s missteps. But, he said, like a professional sports team, the coach gets the ax when the team is not winning.

“Really, the campaign manager all along has been Donald Trump,” he said.

Trump has famously run a lean operation, running circles around his Republican primary opponents while spending a fraction of the money and deploying a fraction of the paid staffers of his better-funded rivals. In the primaries, the strategy turned out to be an asset. A simplified campaign hierarchy allowed Trump to avoid the sclerosis that sometimes bogs down a campaign. And employing fewer people meant that Trump kept the bills low.

But as he embarks on a general election campaign against the Clinton machine, he’s finding a resource mismatch. The Washington Post reported this month that Trump barely had more than 100 people on the payroll in April. Clinton, by contrast, has about seven times as many employees.

If the aim of the Monday’s firing is to ramp up staffing to levels more traditionally associated with a modern presidential campaign, Manafort has his work cut out for him.

“They don’t have a lot of time,” Peterson said. “Just weeks out from the convention, he wants to put on a show … Now, he doesn’t even have the person who’s been with him since the beginning of the campaign.”

Hoffman the Clinton campaign has a large head start.

“Anything is possible, but certainly, it’s going to be a high bar to meet what Hillary has in place,” she said.

Beyond strategy, the move will prove to be a wise one if it improves morale within the campaign, and Lewandowski was a controversial figure. Trump stuck by him as law enforcement authorities investigated — and ultimately decided not to seek criminal charges — over complaints that he shoved a Breitbart reporter.

But multiple news organizations reported that he was not well-liked within the campaign — and that Trump’s children played an integral role in pushing him out. That is not so unlike the 1980 firing of Reagan campaign manager John Sears. Shirley, the Reagan biographer, said Nancy Reagan was key to that decision. He also pointed out that, like Trump, the decision came at a time when Reagan was struggling.

Shirley said a sign of whether a significant shift has taken place will be evident when Trump picks a running mate and keynote speaker for the convention.

“Everybody understands … running a general election campaign is worlds different than running a primary campaign,” he said.