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Campaign 2016 updates: Donald Trump is ‘wrestling’ with his pledge to deport an estimated 11 million people

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Donald Trump‘s campaign tries to make peace with the Republican National Committee:

Trump gains ground against Clinton, tracking poll finds

Donald Trump has gained ground against Hillary Clinton, according to the latest findings from the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times national tracking poll of the presidential race.

The uptick for Trump follows a broad-based decline in early August and suggests a possible narrowing of the race.

Trump has regained some of ground he lost after the Democratic National Convention in late July, when he repeatedly criticized the Muslim American parents of a dead U.S. Army captain, and appeared to urge Russia to hack Clinton’s email.

As of Sunday, the tracking poll showed Trump at 45% and Clinton at 43%, within the survey’s margin of error. Those results are far closer than most other polls, which use different methodology and almost uniformly show Clinton ahead by several points.

The shift follows a shakeup last week at the top of the Trump campaign after weeks of turmoil. Campaign chairman Paul Manafort was ousted after his past work for pro-Kremlin figures in the Ukraine became a political liability.

Turnout is a key factor in any election, and the poll also asks if Clinton and Trump supporters plan to vote.

For the first time in three weeks, more Trump supporters said they planned to vote than Clinton supporters by a slight margin, 83%-82%.

One week ago, on August 14, 78% of Trump supporters planned to vote compared with 83% of Clinton supporters.

Separately, the poll also asks voters which candidate they think will win. That question has often shown greater ability to predict election outcomes than asking people who they will vote for, particularly when the election remains months away.

Clinton continues to lead voter expectations by a large margin, 54%-40%.

After the Republican National Convention last month, Trump had briefly narrowed the gap on that question, but Clinton rebounded sharply in mid-August and has held that lead.

Some analysts have suggested that the way the USC/L.A. Times Daybreak poll is weighted has shifted the results a few points in Trump’s favor.

Every poll weights results to make sure the survey sample matches known demographic facts. They thus are weighted to reflect accurate percentages of men and women or older and younger voters.

Each poll does that process differently, and until the votes are counted, there’s no way to know for sure which method was right.

The Daybreak tracking poll uses a different methodology than most election surveys.

Why the USC/L.A. Times tracking poll differs from other surveys >>

Instead of randomly contacting a different set of people for each survey, it uses a panel of roughly 3,200 eligible voters, selected to be representative of the U.S. electorate. Those people are resurveyed continuously, roughly 300-400 per day.

As a result, shifts in the candidates’ standings reflect actual people changing their minds as opposed to variations in who responds from one survey to the next.

Using a 0-100 scale, the poll asks voters to estimate the chance that they will vote for Clinton, Trump or another candidate.

Each week, the poll has found that about three-quarters of the voters don’t significantly shift their preferences.

At the other end of the scale, very few do a complete turnaround — going from wholehearted support of Trump, for example, to strong support for Clinton.

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Trump campaign seeks to end discord with Republican National Committee

Senior GOP officials and aides to Donald Trump said Sunday that they are working to repair months of discord between the campaign and the Republican National Committee as they prepare for the fall race.

They said the campaign would bring a senior GOP strategist into Trump’s New York headquarters several days a week, and the RNC would increase sharing of political data and fundraising strategies.

The moves come after a dramatic shake-up of Trump’s top management team last week, which followed weeks of falling polls and gaffes that largely overshadowed the GOP nominee’s campaign efforts.

Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman, insisted that Trump would catch up to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, “as we move through September.”

“Donald Trump has been disciplined and mature,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “And I think he’s going to get this thing back on track.”

Kellyanne Conway, who Trump hired last week as his new campaign manager, insisted that the campaign was already back on track.

“We had a great week, the best week so far,” Conway said on the same show, citing the airing of Trump’s first TV ads, his appearance in flood-ravaged Louisiana and his attempts to reach out to black and Latino voters.

“He’s able to be himself, the authentic Donald Trump,” she said, and “the pivot that he’s made is on substance.”

She said the RNC’s chief strategist, Sean Spicer, will spend several days a week at Trump’s New York headquarters to help coordinate between the two operations.

Although Trump has insisted in the past that he does not prepare for debates, Conway said they had begun “debate prep” for his three expected debates this fall with Clinton.

“We’re doing that in many different ways,” she said. “But he’s very engaged with that. It’s actually a very enjoyable pursuit for him.”

Conway said the campaign’s goal is to move the focus of attention off Trump’s temperament and personality and onto Clinton’s plans for immigration reform, healthcare and the economy.

“The Hillary people want this to all be about tone and temperament,” she said. “We also want it to be about facts and figures.”

Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, who appeared on the same show, disputed that Trump had changed or made a pivot, saying even Trump had denied that.

Mook also argued that Trump should publicly account for his financial ties to Russia and his repeated praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“There are real questions being raised about whether Donald Trump himself is just a puppet for the Kremlin in this race,” Mook said.

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Aides say Donald Trump may be reconsidering his vow to deport 11 million people

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump campaigns in Charlotte, N.C.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump campaigns in Charlotte, N.C.
(Jeff Siner / Associated Press)

A day after Donald Trump met with a group of Latino supporters, top aides suggested Sunday that the GOP nominee may be reconsidering his signature campaign promise to round up and deport 11 million people who are in the country illegally.

His new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, was asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” if Trump still wants a “deportation force” to remove everyone in the country illegally, as he has vowed repeatedly on the campaign trail.

“To be determined,” she said.

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Trump won’t release tax returns while under IRS audit, aide says

Kellyanne Conway at Trump Tower on Wednesday.
(Gerald Herber / Associated Press)

Donald Trump’s new campaign manager said Sunday that the GOP nominee will not release his income tax returns to the public until an Internal Revenue Service audit is complete.

It was a reversal for Kellyanne Conway, who was named Trump’s campaign manager on Wednesday. Earlier this year, the Republican pollster and strategist had urged Trump to release his tax returns.

“I’ve learned since being on the inside that this audit is a serious matter and that he has said that when the audit is complete, he will release his tax returns,” Conway said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

No law prevents Trump from releasing his returns during an audit, which could take years.

His returns would show voters for the first time how much he pays in taxes, how much he gives to charity, and provide a guide to his assets and investments.

A New York Times investigation into Trump’s vast real estate holdings concluded that companies he owns in the United States have at least $650 million in debt, far more than he has publicly acknowledged.

Every major party presidential candidate since the 1970s has released tax returns.

Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, has released returns for several decades, including her 2015 return, and has pressed Trump to release his.

Representatives for Trump have said the IRS is auditing his tax returns filed since 2009 and that returns from 2002 to 2008 are no longer being audited.

Conway told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that she doesn’t think Trump should release the earlier returns either.

“This entire tax return debate is somewhat confounding to me, in the following sense: I don’t think that it creates one job, gets one more individual who does not have health insurance covered by health insurance, particularly under the disaster that has been Obamacare with these private insurers pulling out our exchanges now and reporting billions of dollars of losses,” Conway said.

Voters, Conway said, should be focused on how Trump’s plan could reduce their tax liability.

“If we want transparency, if we want specifics, the most relevant thing that people can look at is what is his plan for their tax bill,” Conway said.

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Trump campaign doubles spending, but not its ground game

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Donald Trump’s campaign expenses more than doubled last month, even as the Republican presidential nominee held his payroll to about 70 employees, aired zero television advertisements and undertook no significant operational buildout across the country.

Instead, about half of the campaign’s $18.5 million in spending was vacuumed up by Giles-Parscale, a web design and marketing firm new to national politics, Federal Election Commission filings show. It’s a crossover vendor from Trump’s real estate organization.

The campaign paid Giles-Parscale $8.4 million in July, about twice what the San Antonio firm had collected from it over the course of the preceding year. Brad Parscale, the firm’s president, is the campaign’s director of digital marketing.

The big expense came as Trump put a new emphasis on online fundraising, after paying for his primary run mostly out of his own pocket.

Millions more went to air travel. The campaign paid about $2 million for private jets other than Trump’s own TAG Air, which also collected $500,000.

Some of Trump’s consultants are also mysteriously well-paid.

Chess Bedsole, the campaign’s Alabama state director, was paid $64,000 last month for field consulting. His last campaign payment was for $15,000 in December.

Yet the campaign’s payroll remained thin, and there did not appear to be much new in the way of office leases across the country, including in critical battleground states such as Ohio.

Trump has relied heavily on the Republican National Committee for conventional campaign infrastructure. And he’s boasted of holding the line on his campaign spending. But he’s running critically low on time to build an operation that can compete with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

In addition to being ahead of Trump in polls in key states, Clinton has maintained a staff of about 700 for months, opened up offices across the country and already spent $67 million on general-election ads. Trump put out his first ads days ago, spending $5 million to air them in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Clinton’s campaign spent $38 million in July, about double the spending of the Trump campaign.

Clinton can afford to spend more than Trump, the July campaign finance reports show. Her campaign raised $52 million for the month, while his brought in $37 million, including a $2-million contribution from Trump himself.

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Hillary Clinton raises funds at Martha’s Vineyard parties while Obamas dine elsewhere

(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

Hillary Clinton dropped by the resort island of Martha’s Vineyard over the weekend to pick up more than $3 million in campaign contributions.

Thirty people contributed $50,000 apiece to attend the Saturday night function at the summer home of Lynn Forester de Rothschild, a wealthy investment manager so committed to Clinton that she couldn’t bring herself to vote for then-Sen. Barack Obama after he defeated Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were on the island at the time of the Saturday fundraiser, but aides to the president said early on that the president did not plan to attend. Instead, the Obamas made a semi-public appearance dining on the white linens of Chesca’s Restaurant in this well-heeled part of the island. Dozens of people gathered as they ate and cheered them as they departed for their motorcade.

But the events of the day on the island were Clinton fundraisers. Edgartown salons were full of people getting ready for events that evening, including one set under a sprawling white tent on the waterfront property of businessman Frank Biondi, former CEO of Universal Studios, and wife Carol.

Biondi said his and his wife’s event raised almost $2 million and included nearly 800 people who own summer homes or live on the island year-round. Attendees at this party contributed between $1,000 and $27,000 apiece, Biondi said.

At the Rothschild event, an aide to Clinton said, Clinton talked about how America succeeds when “everyone shares in the rewards, not just those at the top.”

Rothschild, chief executive of the private investment company E.L. Rothschild, is also the founder of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, promoting business and investment practices meant to “extend the opportunities and benefits of our economic system to everyone,” according to its mission statement.

Rothschild has supported Clinton since the early 1990s and, after emerging as one of her earliest backers in the 2008 Democratic primary for president, announced publicly that she would support Republican nominee John McCain over Obama. She made a name in the popular press with her subsequent appearances on cable television questioning Obama’s qualifications to serve in the White House.

6:40 p.m, Aug. 22: This post has been corrected to reflect that the fundraiser under the waterfront tent was the Biondis’, not Rothschild’s, and updated to add details on the Biondis’ event.

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Opinion: Republicans wish they could blame Bill Clinton for the Trump debacle

(David Horsey/Los Angeles Times )

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