Donald Trump finally got rid of Corey Lewandowski on Monday in an attempt to reset a campaign that has been floundering badly in the seven weeks since he secured the Republican presidential nomination.
The goal of the move was clear: to end a long-running power struggle between Lewandowski, a Trump loyalist through and through, and Paul Manafort, a professional political hand brought in by Trump mid-campaign to serve as convention director.
Both men denied the tension, but they were clearly at odds over how to handle Trump. Lewandowski believed in a damn the torpedoes, us against the world mentality in which Trump was right — and everyone else was wrong. Manafort favored a more conciliatory approach as he tried to make nice with the very establishment that Trump had vilified in the Republican primary.
Picking Manafort over Lewandowski is also intended by Trump to signal to a panicky GOP that he gets it, that he knows that things have been bad and that he is committed to changing them.
Manafort is a known commodity to Washington Republicans — although he is not universally loved or trusted, he is someone people know. Lewandowski was — and is — far more lightly regarded within Washington, and that was before his run-in with former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields and Lewandowski's lack of truth about his role in the matter. He was regarded as a wildcard, a loose cannon who played to Trump's worst instincts politically speaking.
So, this move will likely buy Trump a bit of goodwill among Republicans who had been asking for changes — and threatening that if those changes weren't made they might have to publicly walk away from his campaign.
And, it will — Trump hopes — serve as a sort of reset with the broader general electorate, which has increasingly soured on his candidacy as they have become more familiar with it.
Here's the problem as I see it: Trump is the campaign manager, chief strategist, lead organizer and every other senior role within the campaign. (Yes, Lewandowski "managed" the campaign but only in the sense that he executed things that Trump asked him to do. "Campaign implementer" is a more accurate title for what Lewandowski did.)
The only way Trump's campaign changes in any meaningful way then is if Trump himself changes. He's rhetorically flicked at the idea of becoming "more presidential" and insisted that if he is elected president he will act with much more gravitas. But, Trump keeps making that promise — remember how he said he was going to be more presidential once he won the primary? — and not keeping it.
Why? Because people don't change. Especially very successful people who are 70 years old.
Firing Lewandowski is totally meaningless unless, in getting rid of his alter ego, Trump finally makes those long promised changes in how he behaves — both toward those in his own party and on the issues facing the country. It's hard to imagine.