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'Regret' And A Pivot? Trump Tries For Campaign Reboot In Charlotte

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Tom Bullock
/
WFAE

If Donald Trump’s campaign were a restaurant, there’d be a sign out front reading "Under New Management."

Earlier this week the Republican presidential nominee  brought in two new people to run his campaign. And last night in Charlotte came the first Trump speech since the management shake-up.

So has anything changed?

The usual menu at a Trump rally is pretty well known.

A big helping of how America is on the brink, failing at everything, welcoming in terrorists and needed border walls. An entrée seasoned heavily with questionable jokes and disdain for his opponents and protesters. All red meat for his supporters.

Never has Trump offered up a slice of humble pie on the campaign trail, until last night.

“Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that.” The crowd laughed a bit, then Trump continued. “Believe it or not, I regret it.”

The crowd waited for a punch line but it didn’t come. Instead Trump drove home his point, “I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain.”

That apology came in the 19th paragraph of Trump’s speech. That’s not a guess. The candidate who prides himself on impromptu, off the cuff stump speeches was reading from a teleprompter.

That wasn’t the only change the new management has brought.

Remember the “Only I can fix it” theme of Trump’s convention speech. That seems to have been left in Cleveland, replaced with “We must all work together to lift each other up.”

Oh there were still moments the Trump you’ve seen to this point popped up. But they were veiled behind a new, more polished veneer. Take this section on border security.

“I speak the truth on behalf of the family living near the border that deserves to be safe in their own country but is instead living with no security at all.”

Bet you were expecting talk about building a wall. Trump’s faithful sure were. They started chanting “Build that wall!” In the end Trump relented. “We will build the wall.”

And he again brought up a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants and what Trump calls “extreme vetting.”

“Anyone who believes Sharia law supplants American law will not be given an immigrant visa. If you want to join our society, then you must embrace our society, our values and our tolerant way of life.”

That too though hedged in new, more inclusive language. “Those who believe in oppressing women, gays, Hispanics, African-Americans and people of different faiths are not welcome to join our great country.”

Trump even softened the language around his main competitor. He mentioned Hillary Clinton 21 times in his speech. But not once did he preface her name with ‘Crooked’.

The crowd, however, did not show similar restraint. A chant of “Lock her up!” did make an appearance.

Trump’s speech last night was different in tone, tenor, and execution. The candidate stayed largely on message.

It seems the moment Republicans leaders have been hoping would come may have just happened at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Trump may have finally pivoted from primary season to the general election.

And at an unexpected time.

The new management of the Trump campaign is known more for catering to the far right of the Republican Party than the middle needed to win in a general election.

And that’s exactly who Trump was focused on last night.  “Our campaign is about representing the great majority of Americans, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Conservatives and Liberals.”

There’s another possible reason for this change in tack, Trump is falling behind in the polls, especially in key battleground states like North Carolina.

During a section of his speech focused on helping African-American children climb out of poverty, Trump said “What do you have to lose by trying something new? I will fix it. Watch, I will fix it.”

It might as well have been an assurance he was giving to himself.

As the crowd filed out of the convention center, they were greeted by an onslaught of people selling pro-Trump swag.

And yeah, people were buying it.

Now the Trump campaign will see if voters, and let’s face it, the candidate himself, buy this apparent pivot to be more presidential.