Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington
Good morning! Ben Geier, a Fortune reporter, is filling in today for Tory Newmyer.
For months and months, pundits, journalists, and Republican leaders have been waiting for Donald Trump to pivot. They’ve assumed that at some point, the Republican Party, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, and Trump’s aides would prevail on the GOP presidential candidate to tone down the rhetoric and reach out to a wide constituency of voters. In a speech Thursday, Trump seemed to come close to doing this, saying he regretted saying the “wrong things” that caused some “personal pain.”
Was this the beginning of the long-awaited pivot? Paul Manafort, the veteran political operative who had been hired to infuse the Trump campaign with professionalism, was pushed aside earlier this week, and on Friday, he resigned. Trump’s new campaign manager is pollster Kellyanne Conway, but on top of Team Trump is Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, a conservative news site that has been an ardent Trump booster.
As my colleague Sean Tully wrote earlier this week, this latest shuffling seems destined to come to an explosive end. Bannon, like Trump, is a right-leaning populist with controversial stances on issues like Islam and immigration. He also is known for the same kind of brash, take-no-prisoners talk that Trump favors. In short, if Trump doesn’t want to pivot in either substance or style, Bannon isn’t likely to push him.
Trump’s controversial views worked to rally the base during the Republican primaries. But to win the general election, Trump needs to win over independent voters. A recent analysis in the Washington Post suggested that there simply aren’t enough blue-collar, white men in the country to propel Trump to the Oval Office, even if they all voted for Trump.
“Everyone talks about, ‘Oh are you going to pivot?’ I don’t want to pivot. You have to be you. If you start pivoting you are not being honest with people,” Trump said earlier this week. The question, then, is whether Bannon can find Trump some route to the White House by Trump being Trump.
• Trump starts hitting the airwaves
Donald Trump has relied on social media and copious news coverage to reach voters. Now, the Trump campaign is starting to spend, releasing its first TV ads of the general election. The $4 million ad-buy still lags far behind the $61 million Clinton has already spent.
• GOP nervous about hold on Congress
The latest Trump campaign shuffle isn’t quelling Republican fears that Trump is a drag on down-ballot races. The Cook Political Report projects that Republicans could lose up to 20 House seats; losing control of the House is “not unthinkable.”
• Supreme Court to be an election issue
Since February, there has been an opening on the Supreme Court following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Republicans refused to hold hearings on Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick B. Garland, saying the next president should be making the choice. Now Democrats say they see an opportunity to use this stalemate against Republicans running for re-election.
New York Times
Around the Water Cooler
• Facebook friendships in jeopardy
Facebook says more than 100 million Americans have generated 4 billion posts about the presidential campaign — and it’s leading to some ugly spats.
• Trump visits flood-ravaged Louisiana
While President Obama vacationed with his family in Martha’s Vineyard, Donald Trump made a stop in Baton Rouge, which has been devastated by floods. “We knew you’d be here, Mr. Trump!” a resident shouted. Obama plans to visit the state Tuesday.
• Is Trump News coming?
With Trump bringing on Breitbart News boss Stephen Bannon as campaign chief, the speculation was inevitable: Could Trump launch a news channel should he lose?