Donald Trump still has some “evolving” to do.
The Republican presidential front-runner returned to his characteristic bluster on the stump in Connecticut on Saturday, despite an aide’s promise this week of a more sober candidate ahead of the general election.
“Being presidential is easy,” Trump said at a rally in Bridgeport, before embarking on a routine about how Democrat Hillary Clinton relies on a teleprompter to say as much as “good afternoon,” and renewing an attack on Republican competitor Ted Cruz’s Canadian birth.
“It’s much easier than what I have to do — up here I have to rant and rave and keep you people going, or else you’re going to fall asleep on me,” Trump said.
Trump and Cruz have traded shots over an appearance at the Republican National Committee’s meeting this week in Florida by Paul Manafort, the veteran political consultant brought on to manage Trump’s delegate-wrangling operations. Manafort attempted to smooth tensions between the real estate developer and the party’s establishment, saying that Trump has been “projecting an image” with a public persona that differs from “the real person.”
Trump also said this week that a new phase was coming as the state nominating contests enter a key stretch and he creeps closer to securing enough delegates to be the party’s presumptive nominee.
“The campaign’s evolving and transitioning, and so am I,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal. After his crushing win in the New York primary, Trump referred to Cruz as “Senator” rather than his customary “Lyin’ Ted.”
But the nickname was back on Saturday, along with a new taunt: “Rafael,” Trump said at an earlier appearance in Waterbury, Connecticut, referring to Cruz’s given name. “Rafael! Straight out of the hills of Canada.” Trump has said that Cruz’s birth outside the U.S. makes him ineligible to be president.
Polls show Trump’s poised to do well in Connecticut and the other four northeastern states — Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland — that vote on Tuesday. Trump has positioned himself as a political outsider taking on what he calls a “crooked and rigged” political system he’s said is attempting to rob him of the party’s nomination despite his lead in the popular vote.
“When he’s sitting in a room and he’s talking business and he’s talking politics and it’s a private room, it’s a different persona,” Manafort told about 100 people during a closed session at the Republican meeting, according to audio shared with Bloomberg by a participant.
‘Projecting an Image’
“When he’s out on stage, when he’s talking about the kinds of things he’s talking about on the stump, he’s projecting an image that’s for that purpose. The two you’ll start to see come together in the course of the next several months,” Manafort said.
Cruz, a first-term senator from Texas, seized on Manafort’s comments as proof of a disconnect between Trump’s public image and his likely governing philosophies. The socially conservative lawmaker has attempted to convince voters that his rival is a “New York liberal” and opportunist masquerading as an anti-immigrant, gun-supporting Republican in order to win the nomination. In interviews on Thursday he said Trump has been “lying to us.”
Not so, said Trump.
“We’re building the wall, folks,” Trump told the boisterous crowd in Bridgeport about his proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. Referring to Cruz, Trump said, “What he did was he said ‘he will change, he won’t build the wall and he won’t do this.’ Everything I’ve said I’m going to do, folks.”