Paul Manafort was caught on tape saying that Donald Trump has been playing a role in the primaries and will change for the general. This is certainly true, and Trump has been saying much the same when he promises at some future date to become more “presidential.” If he’s the nominee, Trump will jettison whatever positions from the primaries that he finds inconvenient, and take on a more sober demeanor. Will this soften his image and diminish his negatives?
Maybe Trump can manage this, because he’s been able to speak openly about his political calculations–e.g., that he decided to start attacking Cruz in Iowa only when the Texan rose in the polls–in a way that no other politician could possibly get away with. It is easy to imagine him saying, “Hey, look, I had to appeal to these really out-there people–I mean, out-there–to win the nomination. But I’m not one of them. Look at how often I’ve given money to Democrats–and I’m a moderate on social issues!”
But the problem is that everything he has done to this point is on video and on his Twitter feed, so there is no erasing it. It’s not as though he’s been running a stealth campaign for the Republican nomination–he’s been on the air morning, day, and night. His current image may not be indelible, but surely it is quite ingrained. People may well conclude that a new, kinder and gentler Trump is really the act, especially given that how has conducted himself in the campaign accords with how he has acted in public for years.
A “presidential” Trump would be a Trump who is going against the grain of his own brand.