Wednesday 29 January 2020

Trump's political chief 'steps back' from campaign

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the third presidential debate (AP)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the third presidential debate (AP)

Harriet Alexander in New York

Donald Trump's national political director has announced he is "stepping back" from the campaign - the day after a final presidential debate which many Republicans saw as Mr Trump blowing his final chance at electoral victory.

Jim Murphy, who joined the team in June, told 'Politico' that he was leaving the campaign for personal reasons.

"I have not resigned but for personal reasons have had to take a step back from the campaign," he told the site.

Mr Murphy was described by 'Politico' as a longtime party operative, who played a key role in setting up field programmes in battleground states.

Mr Trump's "ground game" - his network of activists branching out in swing states - has long been seen as a weakness in the Republican's campaign.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton, like Barack Obama before her, established a formidable network of supporters across the country, who use extensive databases to target floating voters.

The departure of Mr Murphy comes at a difficult time for Mr Trump, with a little over two weeks remaining until election day. It was unclear who would replace him.

Mr Murphy is a close ally of Paul Manafort, Mr Trump's former campaign chairman, who resigned in August amid accusations that he had worked for pro-Russia causes in Ukraine.

Mr Murphy and Mr Manafort worked together on Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign.

Mr Trump's campaign has seen several evolutions since its launch last summer. The first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was ousted in June and replaced by Mr Manafort.

Mr Manafort then resigned in August, and was replaced by Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon, a founder of right-wing website Breitbart.

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The Democrats seized on the rapid staff turnover.

But Mr Trump's supporters insisted that it was just the natural process of a campaign - likening the election season to a relay race

Meanwhile, Mr Trump was booed for attacks on Mrs Clinton at the annual Al Smith dinner in New York, an event where the presidential candidates traditionally poke fun at their rival and themselves.

With the Republican nominee sitting two seats away from his Democratic rival barely 24 hours after a bitter presidential debate, the white-tie charity gala proved to be a highly awkward encounter. Cardinal Timothy Dolan - sitting in between them - called his seat "the iciest place on the planet".

Kicking off on a light note, Mr Trump earned hearty laughter for some of his early barbs.

He also drew laughs with a joke at his wife's expense. "Michelle Obama gives a speech, and everyone loves it ... My wife Melania gives the exact same speech, and people get on her case," Mr Trump joked, referring to the accusations that Mrs Trump plagiarised the first lady in her speech at the Republican national convention.

However, the Republican appeared to lose the room as he took caustic swipes at Mrs Clinton, drawing boos at an event meant to raise money for impoverished children.

Mrs Clinton was more self-deprecating, joking she's taken a break from her "usual nap schedule" to attend and suggesting the audience should be pleased she's not charging her usual fee for speaking in front of potential donors.

But she, too, veered into personal digs, referencing the accusations of sexism that have been levelled at Mr Trump.

"Donald looks at the Statue of Liberty and sees a '4,'" Mrs Clinton joked. "Maybe a '5' if she loses the torch and tablet and changes her hair."

In further woe for Mr Trump, a woman has claimed she was touched inappropriately by him at the US Open tennis tournament.

Karena Virginia said she felt "intimidated" when, she claimed, the billionaire touched her breast at the event in 1988 at Flushing Meadows Park, New York.

Irish Independent

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