HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Donald Trump has campaigned as the ultimate outsider. But now, with the Republican nomination in sight, his top advisers are reassuring party leaders that Trump would embrace the GOP establishment if he moves on to the general election.
In private conversations on Thursday at the Republican National Committee’s spring meeting in Florida, Paul Manafort and Rick Wiley promised party leaders that Trump was prepared to tone down his rhetoric, several members involved in the discussions said.
PBS NewsHour Digital Politics Editor Daniel Bush spoke with Hari Sreenivasan earlier today about the Republican National Committee’s spring meeting via a Google hangout.
Trump’s campaign “wants to take steps going forward to try and bring the party together,” said Lee Ann Sennick, the RNC’s national committeewoman from Rhode Island.
“We’re keeping an open mind,” Sennick added. “The proof is in the pudding.”
Trump’s advisers also laid out other steps he would take in the coming months to help build up the Republican Party, including holding fundraising events for state GOP parties, sources said.
“This is a positive signal, despite a general lack of outreach in the past year,” said Matt Moore, South Carolina’s GOP chairman.
Manafort and Wiley — veteran GOP strategists who recently joined Trump’s campaign — were slated to make a formal address to the RNC behind closed doors on Thursday evening, followed by a reception with Ben Carson.
Carson endorsed Trump after dropping out of the presidential race last month and has become one of Trump’s leading surrogates on the campaign trail.
In making their pitch to RNC members, Manafort and Wiley also insisted that Trump could still reach the 1,237 delegates needed by the end of the primaries to clinch the nomination on the first ballot at the national convention this summer.
“They both say there’s not going to be a second ballot,” said Louis Pope, the RNC’s national committeeman from Maryland.
Trump’s victory in New York on Tuesday increased his delegate total to 845, roughly 300 more than Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. To have a shot at reaching a majority of delegates, Trump must win big in the 15 remaining primary contests on the calendar.
Cruz, who appeared at the RNC spring meeting on Wednesday, has argued that Trump will fall short, though he conceded that he can’t get to 1,237 delegates either.
“I don’t believe Donald has any path to winning the majority,” Cruz told reporters here yesterday.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich also appeared at the RNC spring meeting on Wednesday, where he argued that he was the party’s best general election candidate against Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee.
Kasich vowed to remain in the race, despite his massive delegate deficit. Kasich has only won his home state of Ohio, and has amassed just 147 delegates.
Some RNC members at the spring meeting said they thought Trump had a chance to reach a majority. Trump has a sizeable lead in polls in several states that hold primaries next week, including Maryland and Pennsylvania.
But Trump would need to win by large margins on Tuesday, and then continue that momentum once the race shifts back to the Midwest and California, which holds its primary in June.
The Trump team’s claims that it can wrap up the nomination by June “are a little ambitious,” said one RNC member, who requested anonymity for fear of criticizing Trump.
Other Republican leaders said they were eager for the primaries to be over, so the party could focus on the general election.
“It is essential that we not lose sight of the goal, and that is winning back the White House in November,” said Paul Reynolds, the RNC’s national committeeman from Arkansas.
At this point, said Cindy Costa, the national committeewoman from South Carolina, “we’re just praying that somebody gets to 1,237 so we don’t go to the convention and tear the party’s heart out.” Costa added, “I just want to have a candidate so we can rally around them.”