WASHINGTON -- Real estate tycoon Donald Trump, who has ignited a political firestorm in the GOP, has fired his presidential campaign manager and says he will change his style for the general election.
At a meeting in his New York office on Monday, Trump fired Corey Lewandowski, his combative chief strategist, and had him escorted out of the Trump Tower by security guards.
It was Trump's first acknowledgement that his campaign is encountering a sea of troubles, including an anti-Trump rebellion among delegates to next month's national convention, an almost nonexistent general election ground game and a dangerously depleted war chest.
Lewandowski, who had never managed a presidential campaign before, was the mirror image of Trump's rough, tough, brash style of campaigning. "Let Trump be Trump," he said.
He had many enemies within the campaign who saw him as a mean, incompetent lightweight who didn't know how to run a campaign, and who encouraged Trump's bluff-and-bluster insults.
The campaign needed a seasoned veteran to run the organization, and Trump turned to longtime GOP lobbyist and operative Paul Manafort to be his campaign chairman and senior strategist. As the campaign gained momentum, Manafort and Lewandowski became engaged in a bitter internal battle that virtually paralyzed the campaign. Much-needed plans for the general election never even got started.
Trump, who previously vowed that he was never going to change his campaign style and become more "presidential," said on Monday that he had changed his mind.
"We're going to go a little bit different route from this point forward. A little different style," he told Fox News in an interview Monday night.
What that means at this stage of the campaign remains to be seen, but Manafort has his work cut out for him on several strategic fronts that Lewandowski ignored.
Fundraising figures were released Monday that showed Trump's campaign had taken in just $3.1 million in May, and that by June, he had only $1.3 million on hand.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, collected $28 million in May and finished the month of June with $42 million in her campaign fund.
Then there's Trump's ego-driven messaging problems, wherein he focuses on himself and his enemies, instead of the national issues that concern most Americans.
In a recent column, I pointed out that poll after poll has shown that the weakening economy, jobs and incomes were at or near the top of voters' list of problems that need fixing. I said that Trump should be pounding these issues day after day, placing full responsibility for them squarely on President Obama, and on Clinton, who says she'll continue his failed economic policies.
Instead, Trump was bashing the judge presiding over two lawsuits brought against Trump University, saying he couldn't get a fair hearing because the judge was Mexican, (though he's a U.S. citizen). That led to weeks of controversy and charges that Trump is a racist.
Then, in the wake of the Orlando terrorist attack came still more demagoguery to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S., and a new suggestion that we should begin to have religious "profiling" on American Muslims, too.
In a recent Trump rally shown on cable TV, he spent much, if not most, of his time talking about how successful he was in his party's primaries. Huh?
In a private strategy meeting following Lewandowski's ouster, Trump and his team of senior advisers discussed the issues that needed to be the focus of his campaign in key battleground states after the convention.
Brace yourself: Apparently his team pressed him to focus first and foremost on Obama's weakening economy.
Indeed, Trump and his top advisers were said to have "crafted a message tightly tailored to the economy," the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
But there are those who believe his campaign shakeup is too little, too late, and that he faces bigger troubles ahead -- namely, the GOP convention, where hundreds of delegates are plotting to prevent his nomination.
It is being widely reported that nearly 400 delegates to the party's gathering in Cleveland next month are reaching out to like-minded delegates to approve a change in party rules. That change would free delegates presumably bound by the nominating results of the primaries and caucuses, allowing them to vote for whomever they wish, according to the dictates of their conscience.
Leaders of this movement have been compiling a list of all of the party's delegates, establishing a website, and holding a strategy conference call that they said drew as many as 1,000 participants.
Trump has called the insurgency "totally illegal," arguing that the delegates he won in the primary and caucus contests were bound to him -- an assertion that is debatable.
To some extent, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who will be the convention chairman in control of the proceedings, has given the anti-Trump plot a green light.
Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Ryan said "it is not my job to tell delegates what to do, what not to do, or to weigh in on things like that. They write the rules. They make their decisions."
It's highly unlikely the Republican rebellion will succeed, but it could seriously weaken Republican voter turnout in November, and put Hillary Clinton in the White House.