Will the Real Donald Trump Please Stand Up?

After weeks of deteriorating polls, it seems Donald Trump finally surrendered to the whimpers of defeat emanating from Republican party elites. Seemingly out of the blue, the campaign welcomed a seasoned and well-respected political operative, Kellyanne Conway—and in true “Trumpian” style, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, Stephen Bannon, a man detested by many as an alt-right street-fighter. Then several days later, the scandal-mired former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, quietly resigned.

Perhaps more shocking than a campaign shake-up in mid-August, is that for an entire week, Trump was largely able to stay on-message. After months of promising to act more presidential, and failing, the long-awaited ‘pivot’ finally came to fruition. While still unapologetically controversial at times, Trump managed to make a surprisingly effective case against Hillary Clinton and long-failed Democratic Party policies both foreign and domestic.

The republican nominee and his running mate were the first to visit the flood victims of Louisiana, where they handed-out toys for children who had lost everything, and much needed supplies for those staying in shelters. He then flew to Milwaukee amid the violence following the police shooting of an armed man, to meet with police and veterans in the area. There, Trump made his first appeal to black voters, becoming the first national republican candidate in recent memory to boldly come out and ask for their vote in November.

This sort of outreach is great… but what about all the voters Trump has already alienated?

For example, Shawn Branch, 38, of Mesquite Texas, has voted republican his whole life. Initially, Branch was open to supporting Donald Trump in the General.

“I went into the primary open-minded. I wasn’t going to quickly lock-in on just one candidate,” Branch explained. “I was pretty much wanting Cruz, but then I saw Trump pulling ahead. Just something made me cautious about him. I was trying to make the best of things however, so I wanted to try to convince myself to support him.”

He remained undecided until the weeks surrounding the Iowa Caucus, when Trump started doubling-down on inflammatory tactics. When it came to supporting him in the primary, or even keeping an open-mind for the general, “Trump talked me out of doing both himself,” exclaimed Branch.

Branch withdrew all support of Trump once he realized he was working with Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. Pointing to their history, Branch concluded, “He proved he was all smoke and mirrors,” adding, “both are evil guys.”

“Stone is a career character assassin and trickster.” After some in-depth research, Branch believes that all “Trump’s grotesque lying and false attacks, all of that was fed to him by Roger J. Stone, Jr.”

Trump’s behavior was not the only issue for Mr. Branch this election. “I voted for Cruz in the primary and not one second did I believe the lies being peddled by Trump. And I knew I didn’t want to vote for Trump before the convention.” He said, adding “(but) I don’t know about the RNC and GOP now. I feel they broke the RNC rules at the convention right before our eyes. They were too easily taken over by a closet liberal.”

The same sentiments offered by Mr. Branch are repeated over and over when talking to other republican voters disaffected with Trump. Going forward, it seems the campaign had better tread-lightly if they hope to pick-up voters dissatisfied with the last 8 years and looking for an outsider. Perhaps enough Americans will be willing to put the past aside in hopes of a better future. But if recent trends repeat, even the best operatives cannot save a campaign when the candidate is the problem.

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Suni Leinart

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