Donald Trump's reset: Can it last?

Story highlights

  • This week the GOP candidate will have the opportunity to convince his critics he can stay disciplined
  • Trump will spend the week criss-crossing the country for rallies

Washington (CNN)After a campaign reboot that his new campaign manager calls his "best week" to date, Donald Trump could have a shot at reversing weeks of negative headlines and sliding poll numbers -- if he can stay out of his own way.

This week, with Democrat Hillary Clinton mostly on the fundraising circuit on the West Coast, Trump will have a chance to show whether his headline-grabbing speech Thursday was a fluke or the start of a more sustained reset. He will begin to answer a dominant question heading into the fall: Can the Trump reset last?
The Republican nominee is running out of time to shift the dynamics of the race, and he'll need to use the spotlight to show he's able to stay disciplined and on-message -- and end his pattern of veering off-script with self-inflicted controversies that consume time and energy.
    His floundering in recent weeks has highlighted the challenging task he faces: capitalizing on the populist, anti-trade and anti-immigration message that fired up his base and buoyed him through the primaries while finding a way to connect with a more moderate general electorate. He's struggled to fine-tune a pitch that can appeal both to the voters who made him successful early on and to undecided voters -- as the awkward maneuvering by his campaign this weekend on immigration showed.
    The real estate mogul shook up his campaign last week after a series of distracting feuds, including a tiff with the parents of a decorated, fallen soldier who criticized him at the Democratic convention. Gone is former campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, whose ties to pro-Russian leaders in Ukraine are under investigation.
    In Manafort's place, Trump named pollster Kellyanne Conway his new campaign manager and brought in Breitbart executive Steve Bannon as the campaign's chief executive. Trump is also said to be getting advice from ousted Fox News chief Roger Ailes, though the campaign denies he has any formal or informal role.
    He will also be getting more close advising from top RNC strategist and spokesman Sean Spicer, who will be working more out of Trump campaign headquarters, the campaign confirmed Sunday.
    Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Conway called it the "best week far in the Trump campaign," saying he's been "authentic" and made a "pivot ... on substance."
    While many pundits surmised that Bannon's move to the campaign would bring a bare-knuckled style that Breitbart is known for, Trump made waves in the days after the announcement by expressing regret for sometimes saying "the wrong thing" along the way, a rare expression of contrition for the nominee.
    He spent the week making a concerted pitch to African-American voters, saying the Democratic Party has betrayed them and asking, "what the hell do you have to lose" by voting for him.
    Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence, also visited flood-ravaged Baton Rouge, Louisiana, helping to unload a truck full of supplies the campaign says Trump himself donated. Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards on Sunday said the trip was "helpful" in calling attention to his state's plight while defending President Barack Obama's choice to delay a visit until this week.
    "Leaders show up where people in need are, and they hear them, and they help them, and you saw that on full display on Friday," Conway said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday.
    Clinton has not visited Louisiana, saying she spoke with the governor and decided it would be a "distraction" to the community.
    Trump also indicated this past week that he may be willing to moderate some of his hardest-line positions on immigration that have been a central theme of his campaign.
    While Conway said that Trump only stuck to what he has said publicly in a Saturday meeting with a Hispanic advisory council, she said it is "to be determined" whether he will back away from a deportation force that would round up undocumented immigrants, as Trump had said in the past.
    Trump will spend the week criss-crossing the country for rallies, hitting both swing states and reliable red-state strongholds. He will do an evening rally in Akron, Ohio, on Monday. He then goes to Austin, Texas, and Jackson, Mississippi -- two red states that will give Trump the opportunity to speak before likely enthusiastic crowds. Friday afternoon, Trump will be in Las Vegas.
    Clinton, meanwhile, will be in a heavy fundraising swing through California, holding star-studded events including at the home of Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel.
    She'll also be appearing on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Monday night.
    Demonstrating how close and critical Nevada, with its six electoral votes, is, Clinton will have a rally in Reno on Thursday, and VP nominee Tim Kaine will be in Las Vegas for two events.
    The schedule largely leaves room for Trump to set the tone of the week. Advisers have long pushed for Trump to focus on attacking Clinton, and avoid making unforced errors. But Trump has insisted he will be himself for better or worse.
    "I have always been the same person-remain true to self.The media wants me to change but it would be very dishonest to supporters to do so!" Trump tweeted last week before he overhauled his campaign. "I am who I am," he added.
    Still, the days following those tweets brought his first admission of regret this campaign and his efforts to directly appeal to minority voters.
    "I think that he is getting into a groove," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said Sunday.
    "I think he likes the new style that he has been out on the campaign trail producing and speaking of. So I think he's done great. And I think what you're going to see is these polls will begin to tighten in the next couple of weeks and by Labor Day or thereafter, I think you're going to be back to an even race if we continue down this path."
    Clinton's campaign downplayed the significance of any apparent reset. In an interview with ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, campaign manager Robby Mook criticized the hiring of Bannon and repeated the Democrats' criticism of Breitbart.
    "We're not seeing a pivot," Mook said. "Donald Trump himself said this was not a pivot. He wants to double down on letting Donald Trump be Donald Trump, that's why he's brought in to run his campaign someone who wrote -- or ran a so-called news organization, Breitbart News, which has peddled some of the worst conspiracy theories around. They've run news, quote unquote 'news,' that's defended white supremacists, that's been sexist, racist, the worst of our politics. So, I think we should be very concerned."