Sean Spicer, chief strategist at the Republican National Committee, said Wednesday that the national party is already working with the new high command and remains fully committed to supporting Trump's candidacy in the coming months.
"The campaign is expanding and bringing in more senior people in the final stretch. Obviously that's a healthy thing," Spicer said, saying he spoke with Bannon by phone late Tuesday and remains in close touch with the new Trump chief executive by email.
But Rick Wilson, a GOP consultant working for independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin, said angst was evident Wednesday morning in a round of phone calls to staffers on Capitol Hill. He predicted that the RNC would be pressured to eventually distance itself from Bannon, and possibly from Trump, to protect Republican candidates in vulnerable districts and states.
"If you were looking for a tone or pivot, Bannon will pivot you in a dark, racist and divisive direction. It'll be a nationalist, hateful campaign," Wilson said. "Republicans should run away."
During a campaign event in Cleveland, Clinton scoffed at the idea that the personnel changes would improve Trump's campaign. She quoted poet Maya Angelou to sum up her view of the Trump campaign realignment: "When someone shows you who they are, believe them," Clinton said. "I think it's fair to say that Donald Trump has shown us who he is."
Trump's moves are in part a reversion to how he ran his campaign in the primaries with then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, whose mantra was "let Trump be Trump." The candidate wants to get back to that type of campaign culture, aides said.
The reshuffling also comes amid growing controversy over Manafort's past as an adviser to foreign dictators and oligarchs. In Ukraine, corruption investigators suggest he may have received $12 million in undisclosed cash payments earmarked in a ledger kept by the political party of former president Viktor Yanukovych, a Manafort client. Manafort has denied receiving the payments.
In Bannon, Trump is turning to an alter ego of sorts - a colorful, edgy figure on the right who has worked at Goldman Sachs and made several films, including a documentary about former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
Bannon, in phone calls and meetings, has been imploring Trump for months to avoid running a fall campaign that makes Republican donors and officials comfortable, aides said. Instead, Bannon has been telling Trump to run more fully as an outsider and an unabashed nationalist.
"I want to win," Trump told the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the campaign shake-up. "That's why I'm bringing on fantastic people who know how to win and love to win."
Trump's decision developed over the weekend as he traveled to the Hamptons on Long Island for a Saturday evening fundraiser at the home of Woody Johnson, the wealthy Republican benefactor who owns the National Football League's New York Jets.