Washington – The departure of New Britain native Paul Manafort from Donald Trump’s campaign on Friday isn’t likely to help revive a candidate who is plagued by problems, analysts say, but it will tone down distracting noise.
Manafort resigned two days after Trump sidelined him by hiring a new campaign chief, Breitbart News’ Steve Bannon, and elevating Kellyanne Conway to campaign manager.
Gary Rose, head of the political science department at Sacred Heart University, said Manafort, hired by the Trump campaign in March to corral delegates during the GOP primaries and promoted to head the campaign in May, has been beset by several problems recently – besides reports of his ties to a Ukrainian strongman that may have resulted in possible violations of the law.
Rose said fundraising problems – rival Hillary Clinton continues to handily outpace Trump – and plunging poll numbers, as well as a steady stream of news stories about Manafort’s lobbying activities in Ukraine and Russia, convinced Trump that “this is going nowhere and needs a reset.”
“This morning Paul Manafort offered, and I accepted, his resignation from the campaign. I am very appreciative for his great work in helping to get us where we are today, and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process,” Trump said in a statement. “Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success.”
Rose, however, said it was not Manafort’s professional skills, which the professor said were sizable, but the chemistry between the candidate and his top adviser that was responsible for this failure.
“It’s difficult to work with Donald Trump,” Rose said. “(Manafort) would be more effective in working for an establishment candidate.”
That’s Manafort’s history. A veteran operative, he helped former President Gerald Ford beat back a primary challenge from Ronald Reagan in 1976, and brought those skills at winning primaries to the Trump campaign. But after July’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Trump failed to successfully shift to a general campaign mode, making a series of misstatements and blunders, including a campaign of attack on the parents of a heroic Muslim -American soldier who died in battle.
Rose said Manafort’s departure isn’t likely to fix the problems facing Trump’s candidacy.
“His campaign is in serious trouble,” he said
Richard Foley, the former head of the Connecticut Republican Party who’s known Manafort for more than 40 years, said the Trump campaign is losing an asset but has no choice but to cut the political consultant loose.
Foley said revelations about Manafort’s past business deals were a “distraction” the campaign could not afford.
“He could not survive the rise of Bannon and Conway at the same time these stories were coming out. It was a crossfire,” said Foley, who first met Manafort when both were working on Tom Meskill’s 1970 campaign for Connecticut governor.
Foley said Manafort is likely to keep a good relationship with Trump and return to the business of “making money” as a political consultant.
“Paul has been very good over the years at producing income,” Foley said.
A ‘ripple effect’
But his departure from Trump’s staff is likely to cause a “ripple effect” as staffers loyal to Manafort are reassigned – or leave.
“It creates a moment of hesitation in the campaign, and that’s the last thing Donald Trump wants,” Foley said.
Matthew Wilson, political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dalllas, Texas, said Friday’s announcement that Trump had accepted Manafort’s resignation is a wise move, but more action than that will be needed to turn the election around.
“Bringing Manafort on board has not seemed to fix any of the Trump campaign’s problems,” Wilson said. “It’s bad optics for a campaign that emphasizes themes of patriotism, nationalism and American pride to have a guy so deeply involved in Russian and Russian-allied dictators in such a prominent role.”
Wilson said cutting ties now will make the stories go away, “but Trump has many other things to worry about.”
To J.R. Romano, the head of the Connecticut Republican Party, the turmoil in the Trump campaign has been amplified by the media, who haven’t scrutinized Clinton’s staffers in the same way.
“The Trump staffers are being treated as if they were the candidate,” Romano said.
But he said Manafort’s departure is the right thing for the campaign, because the stories about the veteran political consultant “detract from what’s going on.”