Donald Trump's presidential campaign chairman on Sunday dismissed reports that Trump was floundering amid perceived off-message remarks and said the campaign is "moving to get forward and is very strong."
Paul Manafort said the national media chose to focus last week on Trump’s “aside” about Second Amendment advocates trying to stop Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s White House bid, despite major news off the campaign trail, including Trump and Clinton announcing major economic plans.
“Besides running against Hillary Clinton, [Trump] is running against the media,” Manafort said on CNN's "State of the Union." “There was a debate that could have been had there. Instead, the media chose to take the Clinton campaign narrative and go on attack on Donald Trump. Trump, in the course of this week, was very substantive.”
Manafort suggested the Second Amendment comment, which some interpreted as a call to violence, deserved media attention but was overplayed compared to the coverage last week of weak economic numbers, a terrorist attack on the NATO base in Turkey and the release of emails suggesting a “pay-to-play” connection between the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton-run State Department.
“Instead, you took an aside that the Clinton narrative told you was something, Mr. Trump told you he didn't mean, and you played it out for two days,” Manafort said.
To be sure, Trump won the GOP primary as a first-time candidate with an unscripted message that resonated with disaffected voters.
However, that strategy has been less effective in the General Election. And his recent comments about a judge of Mexican ancestry, a Gold Star family and Second Amendment advocates appear to have hurt him in polls -- including those in the must-win states of Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Trump on Sunday also turned his attack on the news media.
“If the disgusting and corrupt media covered me honestly and didn't put false meaning into the words I say, I would be beating Hillary by 20 percent,” he tweeted.
Top Republican National Committee strategist Sean Spicer told Politico on Saturday that Trump’s polling deficits are not insurmountable, amid reports that the national party will soon begin diverting money from the Trump campaign to key congressional races.
Manafort also said Sunday that the campaign is getting much better press from the local media in battleground states like Pennsylvania and Ohio and pointed to recent fundraising and campaign numbers to bolster his case about Trump’s continuing success in the race.
“We raised over $132 million in the last two months,” he said. “We're organized in all 50 states. We have been in the battleground states every day this month, including Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida multiple times. … We are starting to get traction in those states.”