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Despite weeks of calls from Republican leaders for a pivot from his freewheeling primary campaign, Donald Trump says he doesn’t want to moderate his tone for the general election.
“Everyone talks about, ‘Oh, you’ve got to pivot,’” Trump said in an interview with WKBT-TV in La Crosse, Wis., on Tuesday. “I don’t want to pivot. I don’t want to change. You have to be you. If you start pivoting, you’re not being honest with people.”
Trump said a presidential pivot was possible, “but, you know, I am who I am.”
The Republican nominee also said his brash style is what led to his nomination.
“I’ve gotten here in a landslide,” Trump said of his primary wins. “Don’t forget, when I lost Wisconsin, it was ‘over for Trump.’ Except for one problem: I then went on a very good run.”
Trump’s comments came hours before the announcement of changes among senior campaign staff. Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of conservative website Breitbart News, was named chief executive of the Trump campaign, while pollster Kellyanne Conway was promoted to campaign manager.
Campaign chairman Paul Manafort — who is at the center of a controversy following reports suggesting he may have secretly taken cash payments from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine in 2012 — will retain that title, the Trump campaign said.
Disgraced former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, who left the cable news network amid multiple accusations of sexual harassment, has been brought on as an unofficial adviser, according to the New York Times. The Trump campaign denied the report.
The campaign shakeup came as Trump fell behind Hillary Clinton by more than 7 points in post-convention polls. A string of controversies also led to calls from GOP leaders, including Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, for Trump to stay on message.
In Youngstown, Ohio, on Monday, Trump called for “extreme vetting” of new immigrants, apparently stopping short of his previously proposed ban on all Muslims entering the United States.
“That exactly shows the evolution, a mature evolution, based on input, on information,” Trump foreign policy adviser Walid Phares said on “Fox & Friends” Tuesday. “He actually operates now almost like a president listening to advisers, people in the intelligence or [who] worked in the intelligence, defense, diplomacy.”
Conway disputed the “shakeup” characterization.
“I know some are calling it a shakeup, but it really is not. It doesn’t feel that way,” she said on Fox News on Wednesday afternoon. “It is a busy homestretch, to election day, we just need to sort of beef up the senior level roles in a way that we are dividing and conquering. There is a great deal to do.”
But Trump’s decision to bring on Bannon, the Washington Post’s Bob Costa reports, is a signal the real estate mogul “intends to finish this race on his own terms.”
Huge rallies. Gloves off. Brutal fights with Clinton. Heavy emphasis on nationalism and populism. That's the Bannon strategy.
— Robert Costa (@costareports) August 17, 2016
“Bannon, in phone calls and meetings, has been urging Trump for months to not mount a fall campaign that makes Republican donors and officials comfortable,” Costa wrote. “Instead, Bannon has been telling Trump to run more fully as an outsider and an unabashed nationalist. Trump has listened intently to Bannon and agreed with him, believing that voters will ultimately want a presidential candidate who represents disruption more than a candidate with polished appeal.”
Trump’s plan moving forward, Costa added, is “to focus intensely on rousing his voters at rallies and through media appearances.”