After shuffling staff, Trump appears to tone down his message—but is it too late?

How long will it last?
How long will it last?
Image: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
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Since bringing Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon on as CEO of his campaign, Republican nominee Donald Trump has made three, relatively faux pas-less speeches aided by teleprompter. This despite immediate predictions on Bannon’s hiring that the campaign would continue to look like “chaos, undisciplined, a lot of attacks, negativity,” according to a former Breitbart staffer interviewed by ABC News.

In one speech, Trump even expressed “regret” for some of the more egregious things he’s said on the campaign trail. “Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it,” he said in Charlotte, North Carolina, Thursday night (Aug. 18). “And I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues.”

The campaign pulled another unexpected move by accepting the resignation of campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Friday morning (Aug. 19).

“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. Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success,” Trump said in a statement.

Bannon’s hiring, along with the promotion of pollster Kellyanne Conway to campaign manager, were both seen as demotions for Manafort, who has come under heavy criticism of late for alleged ties to pro-Russian elements in Ukraine. Manafort has denied any involvement with such parties or individuals.

It’s an interesting time for Trump to tone it down. When Manafort was brought on to replace Corey Lewandowski in June 2016, he was expected to help the candidate smooth out his rhetoric and guide the campaign into more mainstream waters. Yet Trump openly defied Manafort’s guidance, with aides telling  The Washington Post on Wednesday that he felt “controlled” and “boxed in” by efforts to soften his messaging.

All of this points to a “pivot” that will be temporary at best—given the combination of Trump’s fickleness and Bannon’s flare for conflict. And as, traditionally speaking, polling trends tend to lock in after Labor Day, the Trump campaign only has about two weeks at the outside to flip the script.