As hopes dim for Donald Trump arriving at this summer’s Republican National Convention as the party’s definitive nominee, the campaign announced Thursday that it was expanding the role of Trump’s high-powered delegate wrangler.
Paul Manafort, the lobbyist and consultant hired last month, is now leading all duties related to the nomination process, according to a statement from the campaign. It’s a sign of the campaign battening down the hatches for the possibility of a brokered convention brawl.
“Mr. Manafort will oversee, manage, and be responsible for all activities that pertain to Mr. Trump’s delegate process and the Cleveland Convention,” the statement read. “The nomination process has reached a point that requires someone familiar with the complexities involved in the final stages.”
A veteran Republican operative, Manafort was involved in the last GOP brokered convention in 1976, when he helped former President Gerald Ford edge past then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan to secure the nomination. When he set up lobbying shops in Washington, Trump confidant Roger Stone was his business partner.
Manafort said in the statement his job “is to secure and protect Mr. Trump’s nomination,” a nod to the campaign’s recent messaging that Trump’s rivals are trying to “steal” the nomination.
Trump’s double-digit loss in this week’s Wisconsin primary was another setback on the billionaire’s path to the nomination, which was once viewed as unstoppable.
The announcement also comes in the wake of reports of an internal power struggle between Manafort and campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Politico reported Lewandowski fired Trump’s top staffer in Colorado for communicating with Manafort after he ordering the staffer not to, an account Lewandowski denied.
Manafort was slated to meet with Trump Wednesday in New York to voice his concerns about pushback on his efforts from within the campaign, an anonymous source told Politico.
Months of reports on Lewandowski’s bully-ish persona and role as gatekeeper for the candidate reached a peak earlier this month when he was charged with misdemeanor battery in Florida for allegedly manhandling an ex-reporter for the conservative site Breitbart. But Trump has touted his loyalty to members of his inner circle, and his national spokeswoman vowed that Lewandowski would stay with campaign even if he is convicted.