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When it became clear that Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee for president, there were supporters who predicted that he would tone down his inflammatory rhetoric, the Republicans who hoped he would act more like a conventional politician. Well, that hasn't happened. But today, Trump did make one big change. He fired his original campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. NPR's Sarah McCammon is covering the Trump campaign. And Sarah, to begin, why was Lewandowski kicked out?
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: You know, Audie, there has been tension in the campaign for a long time. Corey Lewandowski has been with Trump from the beginning. And he didn't have a lot of political experience, but he and Trump kind of clicked. Lewandowski led a shoestring campaign without a lot of staff or traditional fundraising or traditional organization.
And, you know, that worked well in the primaries, obviously. Trump is the presumptive nominee. But largely it worked because of the force of Trump's personality and his ability to draw those big crowds and lots of press coverage. So, you know, Trump liked this. He didn't want to run a typical campaign, and he saw his organization as efficient and lean and mean.
But eventually, as it became clear that Trump could really become the GOP nominee, he began to make newer hires in an effort to become a more traditional campaign. Some of those were more experienced operatives. And in an interview with CNN today, Corey Lewandowski acknowledged that things had been changing.
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COREY LEWANDOWSKI: As you look at how small this team has been and how close-knit this team has been, it's really important to know that there are highs and lows in every campaign. And we've been through them together. And in order to be successful, we need to continue to build that team and build those relationships with the RNC and utilize the resources that they have available to us. So that's where the campaign is going, and it's been a great privilege. And look; I wouldn't change one second.
MCCAMMON: And so, Audie, we've known that there's been a bit of a power struggle between those factions, the old and new, in the campaign for a while. We've heard from sources, though, that Trump liked that competition. He saw it as generating good ideas, and was keeping Lewandowski on in part because of his loyalty to him. But there still isn't a robust national organization and ultimately, today, we saw that Corey Lewandowski had to answer for that.
CORNISH: Now, for a long time there were significant episodes of bad press for the Trump campaign that were - that was essentially focused on Lewandowski. But you mentioned loyalty there. It means a lot to Donald Trump, right? And did that come into play here?
MCCAMMON: Well, you know, Lewandowski's been a controversial figure for months. And he's had multiple confrontations with reporters, especially - you may remember back in March he was accused by Michelle Fields, formerly of Breitbart News, of grabbing her as she tried to ask Trump a question. Lewandowski appeared to grab her on a security video, but that charge was ultimately dropped by prosecutors. And Trump stuck by him through that.
Behind the scenes, he's been seen as a divisive figure. He's had enemies inside the campaign, including some of those newer hires. And he said himself that he is an intense person. But again, Trump was very loyal to him, he was very loyal to Trump and still, from some of the things he's said today, seems to be.
CORNISH: Now, we're less than five months away from Election Day, and I know kind of in Washington that people are really talking about this. How unusual is it to make this change now, and what does it mean in terms of looking at the Trump campaign?
MCCAMMON: Well, it doesn't look good for the campaign, but I think we're seeing a lot of things leading up to this. Poll - Trump's poll numbers are dropping. And that's the thing he's been touting throughout the primary, is his strong poll numbers. He's had a couple of bad weeks. His comments about a judge of Mexican descent and his response to the Orlando shooting were widely panned, including by Republicans.
So he's really been struggling to move into general election mode. There's a pattern of Trump being in the midst of bad headlines, then saying or doing something that redirects the conversation. So, you know, more - there's a lot coming out tonight. We're going to see the latest campaign fundraising numbers when Hillary Clinton is expected to announce a large hall. And Trump has been playing catch-up in a big way.
So, you know, in terms of whether or not, though, anything changes coming forward - on the one hand, this shows us that Trump is willing to take advice from those close to him. But, you know, in the past, we've heard him talk and again about pivoting toward the general election - hasn't really done that. So now we have to see whether or not without Lewandowski's influence if Trump will evolve and if this advice is going to extend to changing his campaign style and rhetoric.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Sarah McCammon speaking to us from New York. Sarah, thanks so much.
MCCAMMON: Thank you.
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