Republican Donald Trump’s more presidential style on the campaign trail is not a signal that he will retreat on core policies, such as his pledge to build a wall on the Mexican border, his top adviser said on Sunday.
Senior Trump aide Paul Manafort dismissed accusations by rival Republican Ted Cruz that the billionaire mogul lied about his policies on immigration to “fool gullible voters”.
Mr Cruz made the comment after Mr Manafort told a closed-door meeting of top Republican officials last week that the party’s White House front-runner would temper the image he has projected so far, saying the “part that he’s been playing is now evolving”.
“I never said Trump wasn’t going to build a wall. I never said Trump was going to change any of his positions,” Mr Manafort insisted on Fox News on Sunday.
Mr Manafort said Mr Cruz was trying to distract from his tough path to the nomination, especially with primary elections coming in Pennsylvania and other states where polls show Mr Trump ahead.
He predicted his candidate would win on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.
Though Mr Trump has won more states than Mr Cruz, the Texan senator hopes to keep him from earning the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination at the convention.
“He’s trying to say the process doesn’t matter,” Mr Manafort said of Mr Cruz. “He’s trying to say voting doesn’t matter. He’s trying to say all that matters is to destroy the party and see who can pick up the pieces on a second, third or fourth ballot. We’re not going to let that happen.”
Also on Sunday, the chairman of the Republican National Committee played down a comment by conservative billionaire Charles Koch that “it’s possible” Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton would make a better president than any Republicans in the race.
“Charles, in the past, has gone out of his way to make the case for him being a little bit less partisan than people would expect,” Reince Priebus said on ABC TV.
“It’s going to come down to four to eight more years of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton or a different direction,” Mr Priebus added. “And I think that’s going to be a very powerful case that we’re going to be able to make as a party.”
Meanwhile, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders reframed his role in the race on Sunday and explained that he has lost primaries in 16 states with high income inequality “because poor people don’t vote”.
Without wavering from insisting that he has a “path to victory”, the senator from Vermont said his goal was to increase voter participation in politics.
Sanders said in an interview with NBC News, in response to a question about his losses in states with a large wealth gap: “That’s a sad reality of American society. And that’s what we have to transform.”