The front-runner dispatched Paul Manafort to the party’s final meeting ahead of the Republican convention.
Outsider candidate Donald Trump sent emissaries to soothe tensions with GOP’s pre-eminent insiders Thursday, and tried to convince them that his bombastic demeanor is merely stagecraft, that his high negatives in the polls can be overcome, and that, if he becomes the nominee, he’ll raise money for the party and help other Republicans win elections.
“We’re here because we want to let you know that we’re very interested in the Republican National Committee and we are very interested in bringing the party together,” Paul Manafort told about 100 people at a presentation to the RNC’s spring meeting.
Tensions have been high between the RNC and Trump, who has repeatedly called the party’s delegate selection process rigged. Trump’s also promised a “rough July,” if changes aren’t made before the summer gathering in Cleveland.
Manafort acknowledged the animosity at the beginning of his presentation, which was closed to the press. An attendee shared a recording of Manafort’s remarks with Bloomberg.
Manafort said he knows some members have asked if Trump “is running against the Republican National Committee. The answer is he is not.”
“He’s actually had some very good conversations with the chairman. He’s made it very clear to me that I’m to make it clear to you that he envisions preparing a campaign operation that will be what you all are historically used to,” Manafort told his audience. “We’re going to pull together all that’s needed. He is prepared to work with the RNC and the committees necessary to raise the money necessary so that we will be well funded.”
The offer was made after The New York Times reported that the RNC was scaling back financial commitments in some states, suggesting that fundraising had slowed.
Trump is “concerned about what he considers to be a transparency issue, where the voters are voting for something and the rules might be something else regarding selection of the delegates,” Manafort added. “He’s not interested in changing the rules in this process. He’s winning. He’s not interested in changing the rules.”
Manafort also made the case that it was in the best interest of the party not to proceed with a contested convention.
“A fractured convention would be the destruction of the Republican party,” Manafort said. “We don’t a want a fractured convention. We want to put this thing to bed early.”
Trump is 3 million votes ahead, Manafort noted. “We think that says what needs to be said,” he added.
Manafort also argued that although both Trump and Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton have “high negatives” in the opinion polls, “we think there’s a big difference between the two.”
“Clinton’s negatives are serious because they’re character based,” Manafort told the gathering. “People don’t trust her. People don’t like her. They think she’s a liar. They think she does things only for her own interests.”
Those who have a negative view of Trump simply don’t like his personality, he said.
“People don’t know what to make of him and some of the speeches he’s given. The style he has. Some of the ways in which he’s presented the issues. But it’s his personality that people have trouble with.”
Manafort said that as a consultant, he knows that “fixing personality negatives is a lot easier than fixing character negatives. You can’t change someone’s character. But you can change the way someone presents himself.”
“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 said of Trump.”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.”
Campaigning in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Thursday, Trump himself signaled that he may not be entirely ready to abandon his shoot-from-the-hip persona just yet.
“At some point I’m going to be so presidential that you people are going to be bored, and I’ll come back as a presidential person and instead of 10,000 people I’ll be talking to 150 people. And they’ll say ‘but boy, he looks presidential,” Trump told the crowd at rally.
“My wife is constantly saying ‘darling, be more presidential.’ I just don’t know that I want to do it just yet,” he added. “We have a job to do. I have two leftovers I have to finish up.”
Earlier Thursday, RNC leaders rejected a proposal that would have changed rules for convention in July, Politico reported. Solomon Yue, the RNC committeeman from Oregon who sponsored proposal, said it was intended to empower convention delegates and provide transparency.
Trump believes that “starting the conversation in this time frame” is a good idea because “this is when we’re all facing the issue and recognizing some of the inconsistencies.”
Trump is the only one of the three GOP presidential candidates who didn’t show up in person to court the influential members of the Republican National Committee at their final meeting before what could well be a contested national convention this summer.
Instead, Trump sent former rival Ben Carson, who endorsed the billionaire after dropping out of the race, and a team of strategists and lawyers to make a presentation for him.
Trump’s remaining opponents, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich, both spent part of Wednesday in Florida courting RNC members, attending a reception and speaking to them in one-on-one meetings.