Trump Shakes Up Campaign Staff Ahead of Expected N.Y. Primary Victory

Veteran political strategists Paul Manafort and Rick Wiley, will take the lead in upcoming presidential contests, a Republican source familiar with the campaign says.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks to reporters before casting his ballot in New York on April 19, 2016.
Seth Wenig/AP

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shook up his campaign staff as he looked beyond an expected primary victory on Tuesday in his home state of New York to the delegate battle that will determine the party's nominee for November's election.

The real estate tycoon told staff over the weekend that new additions to his campaign team, veteran political strategists Paul Manafort and Rick Wiley, will take the lead in upcoming presidential contests, according to a Republican source familiar with the campaign's operations.

The enhanced roles came with a $20 million budget for contests in May and June, Politico reported, as Trump fights to secure support of delegates who will choose the party nominee at the Republican National Convention in July.Trump's national field director, Stuart Jolly, resigned on Monday after the reorganization.

The Republican source told Reuters the changes were a "natural evolution" of Trump's campaign."Frankly we're in a position where we'd like to see if we could close it out," Trump said Tuesday on the "Fox & Friends" program. "I think we're going to get to the number."

That number is the 1,237 delegates a Republican candidate needs to secure the nomination for the Nov. 8 election against the winner of the Democratic contest between front-runner Hillary Clinton and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.

Opinion polls show Trump has a double-digit lead in New York, where the "winner takes most" primary carries 95 delegates, over his closest challenger, Ted Cruz.While Trump has won more nominating contests and votes than Cruz, the U.S. senator from Texas has outfoxed him in the state-by-state efforts to make sure his own supporters are chosen as delegates to the national convention.

If Trump does not secure enough delegates needed to win the nomination outright at the convention, delegates would be allowed to switch to another candidate.Cruz's skillful use of party rules has drawn outrage from the New York billionaire, who says the system is rigged against him.

At the same time, Trump was galvanized to realign his campaign team after Cruz beat him this month in Wisconsin and outmaneuvered him in the competition for delegates in Colorado. Trump currently has 744 delegates, while Cruz has 559 and Ohio Governor John Kasich is trailing far behind with 144, according to an Associated Press count.

On the Democratic side, opinion polls favored former Secretary of State Clinton to carry New York against Sanders. If she can pull off a resounding victory, it would put her almost beyond Sanders' reach in delegates pledged to support her.With Sanders putting up a strong fight, New York has been the scene of some of the harshest exchanges between the two Democrats who both call the state home. Clinton represented New York for two terms in the U.S. Senate, while Sanders was born and raised in Brooklyn.

A big win for Trump in New York would not erase Trump's vulnerabilities.The Republican front-runner remains unpopular with the Republican leaders and activists who select and serve as delegates.

Cruz - whose own brand of uncompromising fiscal conservatism has not made him an establishment favorite - has invested time and money courting them.Some establishment Republicans have been alienated by Trump's more incendiary proposals, such as building a wall along the border with Mexico and slapping a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.

Others see the former reality TV star as an interloper who has not courted them and run his campaign in the national media.Trump has sought to mend those fences with the addition of veteran political strategists whose influence may be showing on the campaign trail.

The outsider candidate who once ad-libbed every rally now reads from notes more often and has been sounding off less frenetically on Twitter.While Trump has muted his threats about unrest if he is denied the nomination at the Cleveland convention, his campaign's steady criticism of the nomination process has put the Republican National Committee on the defensive.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus met with congressional Republicans in Washington on Tuesday to explain to them how a convention is organized and how committees and delegates are chosen, House of Representative speaker Paul Ryan said after the meeting."He is making sure that the rules are the rules, and we follow the rules," Ryan said at a news conference.