Republican leaders wooed by Trump advisors
Top advisers to Donald Trump have assured Republican Party leaders that the New York billionaire would adopt a more presidential demeanour soon, to temper the image projected during his campaign so far.
Trump's representatives, including newly recruited senior advisers Paul Manafort and Rick Wiley, on Thursday met privately with leaders of the Republican National Committee at an oceanside resort hotel where the party is holding a three-day meeting.
"The part that he's been playing is now evolving into the part that you've been expecting. The negatives will come down, the image is going to change," Manafort assured the party leaders, according to an audiotape of the session heard by Reuters.
Trump has been "projecting an image" to energise voters, Manafort said, adding that he will soon concentrate on "crooked Hillary", the nickname that Trump has given to Democratic favourite Hillary Clinton.
"You'll see a different guy," said Manafort.
But in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Trump suggested he was not ready to change from the style that has brought him close to the Republican presidential nomination.
"I just don't know if I want to do it yet," he said.
In recent weeks, Trump has railed against the party for developing what he said was a "rigged" system in which Cruz was able to amass delegates in Colorado without Republicans actually voting.
Chatting over shrimp, crab legs and an open bar, Trump's advisers expressed confidence that their candidate would win the Republican presidential nomination without the party having to resort to a contested convention in Cleveland in July, according to three attendees.
Trump, 69, needs 1237 delegates to win the nomination outright for the November 8 election. Rivals Ted Cruz, 45, and John Kasich, 63, are trying to stop him from getting a majority of delegates, so they can force a contested convention in which one of them could emerge as the nominee.
Cruz told a conservative talk radio host, Mark Levin, that Manafort's comments show that Trump's campaign style "is just an act".
Party leaders told reporters after the session that Trump's envoys said the mogul, as the Republican nominee, would be able to expand the party's electoral map to include several states Republicans have not won in a general election in a generation.
One attendee, South Carolina Republican Party chairman Matt Moore, said the Trump team told the group it expected Trump to adopt a "more presidential demeanour" over the next few weeks.
Moore said he was taking a wait-and-see attitude on whether Trump would change. "The proof is in the pudding," he said.
Manafort told reporters after the meeting that "we talked about how we're going to expand the map".
As for how to change the negative image some voters had of Trump, Manafort said: "We just have to present him in a way that shows all sides of Donald Trump."
Former presidential candidate Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who has endorsed Trump, also addressed the group.
Talking to reporters as he walked into the meeting, Carson said his message was that Republicans should "stop fighting among ourselves" and unite behind Trump.
"I don't think anyone can win if the Republican Party and the conservatives don't consolidate," he said.
Trump, who has alarmed some establishment Republicans with his comments on immigration, Muslims and trade, has begun to moderate his message in recent days.