Donald TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE has had a miserable few weeks, but he has plenty of time to turn things around before the Nov. 8 general election.
While polls show Trump behind Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE and Republicans worry that a negative narrative about the presumptive GOP presidential nominee is getting baked in, strategists say he can get things back on track by following a few simple recommendations.
Here are five of them.
Pick a good VP
One of the fastest ways Trump can repair trust is by surrounding himself with people who would be seen as having a steadying influence on his administration.
A good start would be announcing a seasoned vice presidential nominee — preferably one who would offset doubts about Trump's lack of experience in governing or handling U.S. foreign policy and security.
Judd Gregg, the longtime Republican politician who served as New Hampshire governor and U.S. senator, said Trump’s VP pick is a “very important choice” that will “set the tone” for his general election campaign.
Gregg said he hopes Trump chooses a “substantive, thoughtful person with a history of bringing people together and who’s got ideas for making America stronger.”
When The Hill listed Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her MORE (R-Tenn.) and Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE (R-Ala.) and Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as possible options, Gregg said they’d all make fine choices.
Veteran Republican strategist Sig Rogich said Trump could build further trust beyond his running mate by rolling out “a team of stars.”
Rogich, who has advised Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainBiden steps onto global stage with high-stakes UN speech Biden falters in pledge to strengthen US alliances 20 years after 9/11, US foreign policy still struggles for balance MORE, said that if he were running Trump’s campaign, he’d announce a batch of Cabinet posts every couple of weeks, turning each announcement into a media event to build the sense that there is a team behind The Donald.
Trump should pick “superstar” business and community leaders who ordinarily wouldn’t serve for four years but might serve two years to “right the ship,” Rogich said.
“Then the vote becomes a vote for Team Trump ... and it transitions from being just about him.”
Expand your base
Trump crushed his opponents in the GOP presidential primary, where he was competing with other Republicans for a slice of the vote.
Winning a general election is tougher.
Polls over the last few weeks have shown Trump hovering around 40 percent in general election match-ups against Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, with high disapproval numbers among Hispanics, African-Americans and women.
He's unlikely to win just by appealing to white men and so needs to expand his appeal.
Gregg said Trump “has to transition from being the candidate of an angry group of folks who feel disenfranchised ... to the leader of a national party.”
“And that means speaking to a broader coalition and being more inclusive,” he said.
“I think you have got to stress the themes that are basically Republican,” he added.
“That means being committed to an optimistic, upbeat, opportunity society dedicated to giving individuals the opportunity to succeed."
Focus on winnable states
Trump surprised political observers — and worried Republican strategists — by spending time after his primary win in California and New York, two states he bragged he would bring into the GOP fold.
Such an outcome seems unlikely, according to polls.
Trump is being advised to quit fighting for California and New York and head to states such as Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Wisconsin, where the race will actually be decided.
“I think he will end up focusing on the targeted states,” said veteran Republican strategist Charlie Black, who is a longtime friend of Trump’s campaign chair, Paul Manafort.
Black also pointed out that Trump has more flexibility than the average candidate. He has a unique ability to generate national news coverage from wherever he is, so while it’s important to spend time in battleground states, Trump can hold a large rally in a remote town in Georgia and make the network news in every state in the nation.
Such a strategy could help him across the country in states where a Republican will be favored and where the GOP faces an uphill battle.
Cut out the conspiracy theories
During the primary campaign, Trump suggested Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSchumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks Bipartisan senators to hold hearing on 'toxic conservatorships' amid Britney Spears controversy GOP senators seek to block dishonorable discharges for unvaccinated troops MORE’s (R-Texas) father was involved in the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy.
He said former President George W. Bush was responsible for 9/11 and that U.S. troops got rich stealing money in Iraq.
He also insisted that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was no war hero because he got captured by the North Vietnamese.
All of those claims made headlines, and none of them really hurt Trump in the primary race.
Signs suggest the general election will be different.
When Trump flirted with conspiracy theories about President Obama being a secret Muslim in alliance with terrorist organizations, it horrified many in the GOP and gave ammunition to Democrats.
The timing of Trump’s comments were especially hard to understand, coming a little more than 24 hours after 49 people were killed in an Orlando nightclub by a man pledging allegiance to terrorist groups. At a time when Americans generally rally around one another, Trump went on the attack with lowest-common-denominator arguments.
Days later, Republicans were still being asked about the statements.
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Ohio Republican tests positive for breakthrough COVID-19 case Trump lawyer offered six-point plan for Pence to overturn election: book MORE (R-S.C.) responded that Trump “seems to be suggesting that the president is one of ‘them.’
“I find that highly offensive,” Graham said. “I find that whole line of reasoning way off base. My problems with President Obama are his policy choices.”
Focus on jobs and the economy
Trump’s image is that of the successful businessman who knows how to make a deal.
The economy remains the No. 1 topic for voters.
As such, Trump’s path to the White House would seem to be based on an economic argument.
In interviews with The Hill over the past month, dozens of Republican strategists have said they wish Trump would get back to talking about how he'll make America rich again.
Even though many in the corporate wing of the party will never support Trump’s demonization of international trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, there are many more Republicans who believe Trump is at his best when talking about how he’ll run Washington like a successful business and bring jobs and wealth back to America.
“It’s not all that hard,” said Black when discussing what Trump needs to do to fix his message.
“A few weeks ago he started making serious policy speeches using a teleprompter, which is the best way to organize your thoughts and deliver them.
“Because of recent events he went back to some of his rhetoric, which is maybe over the top. … If Trump would just go back to talking about issues like, 'If you like the way government is going then vote for her. If you don’t, then vote for change.’ ”
Black is optimistic Trump will get back on the "change" message.
“Here’s what you’ve gotta understand about Trump,” Black said.
“He’s a salesman above all else. So he’s got the experience that when the sales pitch isn’t working, you tailor it to what the customer wants.”