Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has announced a massive shakeup in his campaign leadership Wednesday, and it has sent a message to American voters — Trump isn’t interested in second place.
With only 82 days remaining before the election, the bold move has stunned political analysts.
The billionaire real estate mogul named Stephen Bannon of the conservative Breitbart News website as chief executive officer and promoted pollster Kellyanne Conway to campaign manager. Paul Manafort, Trump’s controversial campaign chairman, will retain his title, but it is unclear if his role will change.
In tapping Bannon for a top campaign role, Trump is doubling down on his outsider appeal rather than appeasing establishment Republicans. The conservative Breitbart figure has been a cheerleader for Trump’s campaign for months and was critical of Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Trump has resisted pleas from insider Republicans to overhaul the flame-throwing approach on the campaign trail that powered his surge to the top of the Republican field in the primary season. Instead of punching with kids gloves, Trump has pushed a campaign strategy that involves large rallies and take-no-prisoner comments that appealed to the party base.
Conway joined Trump’s campaign earlier this year as a senior adviser. A longtime Republican strategist and pollster, she has close ties to Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
“I’ve known both of them for a long time. They’re terrific people, they’re winners, they’re champs, and we need to win it,” Trump told The Associated Press in a phone interview early Wednesday.
Manafort deputy Rick Gates, who has been traveling often with Trump, is expected to maintain a senior role with the campaign.
The campaign shakeup, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, comes as some polls show Trump trailing Clinton nationally and in key battleground states.
Trump has resisted pressure to change his campaign style.
“You know, I am who I am,” he told a local Wisconsin television station Tuesday. “It’s me. I don’t want to change. Everyone talks about, ‘Oh, well you’re going to pivot, you’re going to.’ I don’t want to pivot. I mean, you have to be you. If you start pivoting, you’re not being honest with people.”
Conway called the moves “an expansion at a critical time in the homestretch.”
Details of the new pecking order were hashed out at a lengthy senior staff meeting at Trump Tower Tuesday while Trump was on the road. A statement announcing the hires was released Wednesday. Additional senior hires are expected soon.
Trump, whose campaign is built on his persona as a winner, said several times Wednesday that the campaign was “doing well,” and said his speech hours earlier in Wisconsin Tuesday was well-received.
“We’re going to be doing something very dramatic,” Trump added.
Trump’s campaign announced earlier that it would finally begin airing its first ads of the general election next week in the battleground states of Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
While polls have shown Clinton building a lead following last month’s convention, Democrats fear that a depressed voter turnout might diminish support among the minority, young and female voters who powered Obama to two victories.
What do you think of Trump’s campaign shakeup?
Is it a sign of desperation, or a bold gambit from a proven winner? Share your thoughts, comment below.
— The Associated Press contributed to this article