WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — After a tumultuous stretch of gaffes and falling poll numbers for Donald Trump, top GOP campaign and party officials insisted Sunday that their presidential nominee is getting back on track and will catch up with Democrat Hillary Clinton by Labor Day.
Clinton campaign officials dismissed the idea of a changed Trump as nonsense.
“Donald Trump has been disciplined and mature. And I think he’s going to get this thing back on track,” said Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman.
Polls now mostly show Trump lagging Clinton by 5 percentage points or more nationally, but Priebus predicted they will tighten up and Trump will be “ahead as we move through September.”
Trump’s new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, echoed Priebus’ optimism, contending that the candidate just had the best week of his campaign, “mostly because he’s able to be himself, the authentic Donald Trump” and “the pivot that he’s made is on substance.”
Conway, who supported Trump rival Ted Cruz during the primaries, was named to her post this past week in a shake-up in which the campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, resigned and conservative media firebrand Stephen Bannon, who led Breitbart News, took over as campaign chief executive.
A new style was immediately evident as Trump, in a first, offered regrets for any remarks that had caused offense, stuck with his teleprompter at a series of events, and paid a visit to flood-ravaged Louisiana, where he briefly helped unload a truck of supplies. That type of one-on-one interaction with voters is a staple of most political campaigning, yet something Trump had mostly avoided in favor of large rallies.
Trump also announced his first ad buys of the campaign — more evidence of an acceptance of the traditional campaign elements most experts believe he will need in order to have a shot at winning. He also made a direct appeal to African-American voters, who strongly support Clinton, and insisted he wants the GOP to become their political home as it was in the era of Abraham Lincoln.
In terms of raising money, Clinton is far ahead as she has raked in a total of $326 million since 2015 — more than twice of what Trump has brought in.
Clinton spent the weekend fundraising in Massachusetts and will hold more finance events Monday in California.
Conway, whose background is as a pollster, said the campaign wants to get away from a focus on Trump’s personality and onto the Obama administration’s record, and Clinton as a continuation of what it describes as unpopular policies such as the Obama’s health care law.
“The Hillary people want this to all be about tone and temperament. We also want to it be about facts and figures,” Conway said.
She said that the campaign would work more closely with RNC officials and try to expand the map of competitive swing states from seven or eight to 10 or 11. “Donald Trump is back in Hillary Clinton’s head,” Conway said.
Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, disputed such claims. “We’re not seeing a pivot. Donald Trump himself said this was not a pivot. He wants to double down on letting Donald Trump be Donald Trump,” Mook said.
Mook kept up his criticism over Trump’s connections with Russia, arguing that despite the departure of Manafort amid questions over his work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine, Trump should offer an accounting about his own ties to Russia.
“There are real questions being raised about whether Donald Trump himself is just a puppet for the Kremlin in this race,” Mook said.
Trump officials criticized the Clintons’ charitable foundation in the wake of its announcement that it would not accept donations from foreign contributors if Clinton were elected president.
“The fact the Clinton Foundation is still taking foreign contributions until the election, but not after, is a sign they know those donations lead to conflicts of interest,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement, calling for the foundation to immediately cease taking foreign contributions.
Mook defended the foundation’s work, insisting it is saving lives around the globe through vaccine work.
“There are right-wing attacks out there against her based on the important work that the Clinton Foundation has done that are simply not true,” Mook told CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “The Clinton Foundation does incredible charitable work around the world.”
CBS2’s Jessica Moore reported polls are telling the tale of a Trump campaign that has faltered. A CBS News Battleground Tracker Poll showed Clinton has extended her lead in Ohio to six points, improving two points since July.
In Iowa, the candidates are at 40 percent each — the only state with recent polling that doesn’t show Clinton leading.
Trump’s team said they’re still discussing whether to accept the debate schedule laid out for the fall. Clinton’s team said it’s ready to agree on the proposed dates.
Conway, Mook and Priebus were interviewed on ABC’s “This Week.”
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