If there was ever any doubt that the conservative website Breitbart News was the leading proponent of Donald Trump’s candidacy long before he won the nomination, let it be put to rest.
In his second major campaign shakeup in just two months, Trump has named Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, as chief executive of his struggling campaign. For over a year, Breitbart has stayed on message promoting Trump, while constantly hammering his opponents.
Kellyanne Conway, who has never worked on a presidential campaign, is Trump’s new campaign manager.
“They’re terrific people, they’re winners, they’re champs, and we need to win it,” said Trump.
The decision to bring in Bannon and Conway is an obvious demotion of campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who has been a bundle of controversy since replacing his one time nemesis Corey Lewandowski. Manafort has denied recent accusations that he received $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments from a pro-Russian political party.
Lewandowski was pushed aside after he was accused by a female Breitbart reporter, who worked for Bannon, of grabbing her roughly. Bannon publicly supported the Trump campaign, not his own reporter, leading to a half dozen resignations at the website.
“Breitbart News is no longer a journalistic enterprise, but instead, in my opinion, something resembling an unaffiliated media Super PAC for the Trump campaign,” wrote national security correspondent Jordan Schachtel at the time. “I signed my contract to work as a journalist, not as a member of the Donald J. Trump for President media network.”
Former editor-at-large Ben Shapiro has called Bannon a “bully” who “sold out Andrew Breitbart’s mission in order to back another bully, Donald Trump.”
The campaign shakeup comes just 82 days before the election and new polls showing Trump sinking further behind Hillary Clinton in battleground states.
A Monmouth University poll in Florida released yesterday shows Clinton leading by 9 points, 48 percent to 39 percent.
A Washington Post poll in Virginia finds Clinton leading by a huge 14 points, 52 percent to 38 percent.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal polls finds Clinton leading in traditionally Republican North Carolina by 9 points, 48 percent to 39 percent.
The same polling unit finds her ahead in Colorado by 14 points. 46 percent to 32 percent.
All of this adds up to disaster for Trump and congressional Republicans who are looking at a potential blue tsunami coming their way in November.
The shrinking poll numbers are forcing Trump, who has relied on free media his entire campaign, to pay for television campaign ads. He will begin airing commercials in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia on Friday. Despite her lead in the polls, Clinton has been advertising heavily during NBC’s Olympics coverage.
Bannon has reportedly urged Trump not to wage a campaign that relies on the Republican establishment. Instead, he believes Trump should continue to campaign as an outsider and nationalist. Something that is likely to make traditional GOP donors and officials even more nervous.