Trump advisor Paul Manafort recently caused a stir after comments he made in a closed door meeting with Republican leaders were made public. Manafort suggested that Trump has been “projecting an image” for voters, and that he would be toning it down soon. Yet Manafort didn’t say anything that Trump hasn’t said before.
The idea that Trump would project a different image as president is nothing new. In January, Trump claimed, “When I’m President, I’m a different person. I can be the most politically correct person you’ve ever seen.” Furthermore, Trump has repeatedly cited his flexibility on policy as one of his strengths.
This isn’t, as a New York Times op-ed haughtily suggested today, a Manafort-driven correction of Lewandowski’s “Let Trump be Trump” strategy. Nor did Lewandowski’s strategy need to be corrected. Trump has been absolutely dominant in the race under that strategy. He’s also left himself in a strong negotiating position — one where it’s viewed as momentous that he, mirabile dictu, didn’t call Cruz “Lyin’ Ted” in his victory speech. But Trump has always been capable of speaking presidentially when he wants, and he’s always been willing to compromise on his policies.
The particular danger is that Trump will succumb to the conventional wisdom that tacking left on social issues will be necessary to win an election. If Trump’s recent weaknesses on abortion and the North Carolina bathroom bill are any indication of the direction his campaign is heading, he might want to rethink that strategy. Because we’ve already tried surrendering on social issues, and it certainly didn’t make America any greater.
Danny Cannon works for the American Principles Project.