KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Donald Trump might be reversing himself on a key campaign issue, and that issue is immigration. Several reports suggest he is considering backing away from his repeated promise to deport all 11 million people who live in the United States illegally. Trump's new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, was on CNN Sunday. Here's how she answered anchor Dana Bash when asked if Trump is shifting his position on deportation.
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KELLYANNE CONWAY: To be determined.
MCEVERS: NPR political reporter Scott Detrow has been following this, and he is with us now. Hey, Scott.
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey, Kelly.
MCEVERS: So, all right, let's start out by backtracking just a little bit. What has Donald Trump's position been on illegal immigration up to now?
DETROW: Well, immigration is probably the defining issue of his campaign. You go to any rally. You'll hear the chance of build that wall from supporters. That's Trump's promise to build a wall on the entire U.S.-Mexico border.
DETROW: And he's been pretty hard line on what to do with people already here in the country illegally. He said he would have some sort of deportation force - that's Trump's words - to round up and deport people, and he's repeatedly defended that.
In a CNBC debate last year, John Kasich challenged him, saying that's totally unrealistic. Trump responded by referencing a controversial Eisenhower administration program that did round up and deport people who were in the U.S. illegally.
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DONALD TRUMP: They moved a million and a half people out. We have no choice.
MCEVERS: OK, so at the time, that's Trump saying, we have no choice. If that's the case, why might he be reconsidering this idea of mass deportation?
DETROW: Well, you look back over the last week, and we've seen several cases where Trump has tried to appeal to more moderate and independent voters, not just those core supporters who helped him win the primaries. You know, his campaign has brought in new leadership, and they're seeing the polls. He's down in nearly every national poll, most big swing state polls.
DETROW: And there have been a lot of humanitarian and logistical questions about a large-scale deportation campaign, and maybe the Trump campaign now realizes that. But there's a big political problem here for him. A lot of supporters really want this. They backed this idea, and his campaign is all about Donald Trump being this blunt truth-teller who doesn't care about the consequences. So if he really does backtrack on something like this, that kind of undercuts that I'm-here-to-tell-the-truth argument.
MCEVERS: One of those shakeups in the campaign of course is that Trump has a new campaign manager, and now there's this possible shift on a major issue. We heard a lot about Trump expressing regret for some of the statements he's made over the course of the campaign also. I mean what do you make of all these changes?
DETROW: I think - I mean there have clearly been strategic shifts here, but we need to put this in some perspective. Donald Trump is still attacking people online. This morning he personally insulted Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC. In recent days, Trump surrogates have been on TV, promoting rumors that Hillary Clinton is sick or frail. I mean there's absolutely no proof of that.
But we have seen these big changes, and I think the most notable one is the fact that Donald Trump is staying on script at every rally instead of riffing, and that's what's really gotten him in trouble over the course of the year. But by and large - still a very nontraditional campaign.
MCEVERS: We did get a look into that nontraditional campaign this weekend when the latest round of campaign finance reports came out. Did we learn anything new looking at these disclosures?
DETROW: Yeah so Donald Trump's campaign spent about $19 million in July. That's more than they've been spending month to month before, but Hillary Clinton's campaign spent two and a half times that amount. About half of what the Trump campaign is spending went to a web design company that hasn't done any political work before, though they have worked for some of Donald Trump's private companies. He did spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on his own companies again for air travel and for rental of events and office space.
There's still less than a hundred people on Donald Trump's staff, and something that a lot of people who looked through these reports pointed out - the campaign spent more on those make America great again hats than on payroll. So the bottom line is the campaign is outsourcing a lot of the typical campaign work, voter outreach, data analysis to the Republican National Committee.
MCEVERS: That's NPR's Scott Detrow. Thank you very much.
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