Top Trump advisor: Candidate’s primary rhetoric was all an act

Team Trump has been doing some damage control with the GOP elite. According to the Associated Press, “Donald Trump’s chief lieutenants told skeptical Republican leaders Thursday the GOP front-runner has been ‘projecting an image’ so far in the 2016 primary season and ‘the part that he’s been playing is now evolving’ in a way that will improve his standing among general election voters.”

Donald Trump has always been the reality show candidate. His experience on The Apprentice has clearly informed his Presidential campaign. He made it known from day one that he wasn’t here to make friends, that he was here to win. And like any good reality show villain, Trump went about eliminating his fellow contestants (candidates) by any means necessary.

This was particularly clear during the debates. All of the candidates were prepared within an inch of their lives to present their best selves on TV, but Trump took his TV game to the next level. He nailed sound bites and engaged his opponents, the applause, the boos and even the reaction shots. Whereas his opponents were there to debate, Trump’s goal was to keep the cameras (and the post-debate media coverage) fixated on him during precious prime time hours.

What’s surprising is that the Trump campaign is acknowledging this. As the AP continued:.

“When he’s out on the 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,” [Trump senior strategist Paul] Manafort said in a private briefing.

Donald Trump, screenshot via 60 Minutes

Donald Trump, screenshot via 60 Minutes

The Associated Press obtained a recording of the closed-door exchange.

“He gets it,” Manafort said of Trump’s need to moderate his personality. “The part that he’s been playing is evolving into the part that now you’ve been expecting, but he wasn’t ready for, because he had first to complete the first phase. The negatives will come down. The image is going to change.”

I believe them. The best reality show villains have to pivot and reframe their narrative if they have any hope of winning the game. They have to get people who once loathed them on their side. Trump is already taking steps towards this. The hiring of Paul Manafort and Rick Wiley, both veteran GOP political operatives, and the fact that Manafort is having this conversation with the GOP political class is a sign that the Trump rebrand is already underway.

What’s scary is that he might succeed.

Melissa Ryan is a political consultant. She’s spent a decade leading digital campaigns for nonprofits and political races, including EMILY’s List, Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, the New Organizing Institute, and Senator Russ Feingold’s campaign. Visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @MelissaRyan.

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22 Responses to “Top Trump advisor: Candidate’s primary rhetoric was all an act”

  1. CHERRY says:

    Dishonesty reigns in the land of politics….smh….who to believe…Democrat x Republican x Pissed off *** I got this T shirt at

  2. Badgerite says:

    The GOP has always been an act. What else is new. Their whole platform could be summed up as “We’ll hate who you hate.” When Ted Olsen jumped ship to join the case against DOMA, a lot of the GOP felt ‘betrayed’. The truth is that at the top of the party organization, there are plenty of gay people. They just can’t say they are gay. Ken Mehlman was a case in point. But he is hardly the only one. Michael Hess, Chief Legal Counsel for the RNC until his death from Aides was the legal mind behind the RNC legal campaign alleging gerrymandering was a violation of the 14th Amendment. And that legal campaign brought the GOP to power in 1994. Michael Hess was gay and he had a lot of regrets about his work before he died. When the GOP came to power, he was appalled at how they used it. I view Ted Olson’s change of heart as him developing a conscience with respect to his co workers and his friends. I would not expect Donald Trump to develop any such conscience.
    Great book about Michael Hess = The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith.
    The RCC doesn’t come off too great in that one and neither does the GOP.

  3. Beverlyshills4 says:

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  4. Houndentenor says:


    If he can’t be bought why do his surrogates have to reassure donors that he doesn’t really mean what he says. (Assuming anyone actually said that. With third party quotes we should always be skeptical about what was actually said or if they didn’t just make it up.)

    And since when is saying anything that pops into your head a good thing in politics. Can you imagine diplomatic relations with a President Trump?

  5. Houndentenor says:

    Which is the act? What he says to one group or what he says to the other? Or does Trump (as I suspect) just say whatever bullshit is popping into his brain at that particular moment?

  6. Berylwreyes3 says:

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  7. ComradeRutherford says:

    Yeah, “act,” right, sure. An “act.”

  8. ComradeRutherford says:

    Of course it is an act.

    That needs to be repeated…

  9. Doug105 says:

    More likely to be accidentally drowned, I guess I know my pick.

  10. BeccaM says:

    It’s like asking someone if they’d prefer to be waterboarded to death, or skinned alive. It’s debatable which is worse because both result in death.

  11. Doug105 says:

    I also believe Crud to be worse.

  12. BeccaM says:

    “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
    – Maya Angelou

    The man is a monster. He’s shown us he’s a monster. Believe that.

  13. Badgerite says:

    He makes the worst faces.

  14. Badgerite says:

    Well, tell me something I didn’t already know. Of course it is an act. I could have told them that.
    The man HAS no principles to speak of. Duh!

  15. The_Fixer says:

    What I’ve been hearing from the Drumpfo der Clown supporters is that “He’s genuine, what you see is what you get, and he can’t be bought!”

    Of course, this latest revelation shows us that this is horseshit. He’s as craven as any of the worst politicians, if we’re to believe that he actually wants to win (and I don’t think he does). If anything, he is mellowing simply to preserve his brand. That’s the most important thing in his life, his brand. It brings him money, influence and that which he craves above all – attention.

    What’s interesting is that this will likely not lose him any votes. The dullards who have been impressed by him will continue to believe that he’s the racist demagogue that he has portrayed himself to be to this point. That’s what they want.

    Good thing that they’re not going to get it.

  16. JaneE says:

    The “image” of racism goes back to his early days. The government didn’t sue for discrimination without evidence.

    The problem with being an asshole to get votes is if you stop being an asshole you lose those votes. Can’t wait for the Democrats and his GOP rivals to start advertising “Trump sold out to the establishment” or “Trump was a fake all along”. With any luck his most ardent followers will be so disgusted that they don’t vote at all.

  17. confusion says:

    RNC worked hard to destroy Trump campaign..couldn’t do it. Now they must clean up the mess they made. ‘Clean Up Trump’ starts NOW!!

  18. gratuitous says:

    The key component will be the press ignoring the total flip and acting like it’s normal. The rabid base that Trump has stirred up wants to be gaslighted, so they’ll go along with the face turn. The real question for me is whether the Trump Primary Persona has been set in the minds of low-information “independent” voters.

    If only there was some way Democrats could keep that mugging asshole persona out in front of the public.

  19. iamlegion says:

    So basically, he’s trying to convince the GOP establishment that he’s _not_ really the person he’s been acting like for the last year. That would be more believable if he didn’t constantly surround himself with sycophantic morons like that amateur-hour thug Lewandowski. If he didn’t have a foreign policy advisory team of tinfoil-hat nutjobs. If he didn’t constantly re-tweet white nationalists. If he had displayed even the most basic understanding of economics, or how the US Constitution separates powers and defines the Presidency. If he was literally _anyone_ other than Donald Motherfucking Trump.

  20. Quilla says:

    Your mama warned you about this kind of guy. Just sayin’

  21. marknc says:

    Sounds about right to me.

    To win as a Republican he has to be nasty, nasty, nasty, nasty, nasty, and nasty. He has to spit acid when his lips move and he has to lie like a pro. He has to hate and hate and hate and hate. He’s proven he’s rotten enough to be a Republican leader and they support him in droves.

    To win a national election he has to appeal to a broader range of voters.

    No problem – just start lying. There are lots of idiots who will buy the total change. The press will ignore the total flip and act like that’s normal (it’s OK if you are a Republican), and the Republican base will accept that he is lying (doing what is necessary – for Jesus) to get elected.

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