GOP critics: Trump’s campaign wasting precious time

Jill Colvin, Steve Peoples
Associated Press

Washington – — Donald Trump is wasting precious time.

By now, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee was supposed to have stationed senior staff in battleground states, moderated his fiery message to attract new supporters and begun raking in big money.

Instead, he’s spending more time right now picking fights and settling scores than delivering a message that might help draw voters.

Five long weeks since he defeated his last remaining GOP rival, Republicans fear the New York billionaire has squandered his head start. As Democrat Hillary Clinton eyes her party’s nomination, Trump’s campaign has been roiled by infighting, his battleground strategy is lagging and his fundraising operation is barely off the ground.

“I am getting bad marks from certain pundits because I have a small campaign staff. But small is good, flexible, save money and number one!” Trump insisted Monday on Twitter.

Some would-be Republican supporters also fear his unwillingness to budge from a flame-throwing formula targeting immigrants and Muslims that worked well in the GOP primary.

Case in point: Trump’s recent comments about the Mexican heritage of the judge presiding over a case against his now-defunct Trump University. The Republican businessman has refused to back down from his claim that the judge’s ethnic background creates a conflict of interest, drawing scorn from across the GOP as well as the legal community.

Republican South Dakota Sen. John Thune said Monday “it’s not a good place to be” for Republicans to have to repeatedly explain their presumptive nominee’s statements.

“There are I think conversations going on with the campaign, and hopefully that message is being clearly conveyed,” Thune said. “But yeah, he’s going to have to adapt. This is not working for him. They were inappropriate comments.”

Trump also has been slow to adapt to other contours of an expansive general election. Since Texas Sen. Ted Cruz dropped out of the race last month, he has spent precious little time in the battleground states that will likely decide the election.

He has ignored Florida and Ohio, preferring to spend the bulk of the past two weeks in California — a state that hasn’t supported a Republican presidential candidate in nearly three decades.

The ongoing rivalry between aides loyal to Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and to campaign chairman Paul Manafort appears to affect virtually all aspects of the campaign.

Two weeks ago, political director Rick Wiley was fired in the midst of a battleground hiring effort. While the campaign hoped to have senior staff in place across 15 states by June 1, the ex-political director did not finalize a single hire before leaving.

The positions remained unfilled as the factions pushed separate candidates to step in as Trump’s political director. Two campaign aides said Manafort appeared to win that battle, getting Trump to hire Jim Murphy, a Republican operative who was involved in Bob Dole’s failed presidential campaigns.