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Sep 1, 2016

NYT First Draft - September 1, 2016: Trailing Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Turns to Political Gymnastic, by Alexander Burns and maggie Haerman

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The New York Times

The New York Times
Donald J. Trump speaking in Phoenix on Wednesday evening.
Donald J. Trump speaking in Phoenix on Wednesday evening. Travis Dove for The New York Times
Trailing Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Turns to Political Gymnastics

Donald J. Trump’s campaign was teetering early last month, with an increasingly isolated candidate and a downcast staff that seemed to lurch from crisis to crisis. Having fired his campaign chairman and retooled his message, Mr. Trump was still far behind Hillary Clinton in the polls, and Republicans were running away from him.
Under those desperate conditions, Mr. Trump’s closest allies last month pressed him to approve a daring plan: Go to Mexico and meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto, presenting himself to the world as a statesman and earning a new look from millions of American voters.
But the political gymnastics involved in Mr. Trump’s gambit will most likely be difficult to sustain: His approach involves avoiding discussion of his former campaign pledges without renouncing them, and making ostentatious gestures of conciliation toward Hispanic voters and Mexicans without withdrawing remarks that have offended them in the past.
In the space of a few hours on Wednesday, Mr. Trump veered from avoiding a clash with Mr. Peña Nieto over his proposal for a border wall, to goading an Arizona crowd into chants about constructing the barrier.
If winning over people who view him as a racially divisive or reckless candidate would seem to require a dizzying political reinvention, it is far from certain that Mr. Trump is prepared to transform himself so thoroughly.
He appeared solicitous, even pleading, in his visit to Mexico City, shirking confrontation with Mr. Peña Nieto and reading slowly from a cautious, tightly phrased statement that described his admiration for Americans of Mexican descent.
In Arizona, Mr. Trump made his most brazen attempt yet to back away from his pledge to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants, denouncing illegal immigration in vehement terms, while at the same time revising his policy agenda. Where he has, in the past, suggested creating a special force to achieve that goal, Mr. Trump said on Wednesday that a new “deportation task force” would focus on rounding up only the “most dangerous criminal illegal immigrants.”
Mr. Trump has already sought several times to reboot his campaign and reintroduce himself to general-election voters, many of whom hold him in low regard. On Wednesday night, as the crowd in Phoenix grew more energized, he could not resist returning to his fiery form. And Mr. Trump, as is his pattern, created confusion for even his closest supporters, as he appeared to embrace opposite sides of important issues as the day unfolded.

  Donald J. Trump and President Enrique Peña Nieto held a joint press conference in Mexico City on Wednesday.
Rodrigo Cruz for The New York Times
The Republican nominee said he and the Mexican president did not discuss financing for a border wall, but his host said later that he had made it clear that Mexico would not pay.
Donald J. Trump in Phoenix, where he delivered a speech on immigration Wednesday evening.
Travis Dove for The New York Times
His proposals include ending so-called sanctuary cities, assembling a deportation task force, maintaining “zero tolerance for criminal aliens” and putting up a wall.

Travis Dove for The New York Times
Here’s a look at how the Republican candidate’s positions on immigration have changed, or remained the same, throughout the campaign.

  President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and Donald J. Trump at a joint news conference on Wednesday in Mexico City.
Yuri Cortez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
In a quick visit to Mexico, the candidate did something he had failed to do in his campaign: communicate provocative ideas with something resembling diplomacy.

Henry Romero/Reuters
Many Mexican citizens are angry that President Enrique Peña Nieto would meet with Mr. Trump, let alone extend him an invitation.

Travis Dove for The New York Times
Mr. Trump delivered a speech in Phoenix on Wednesday that was supposed to clarify his shifting stance on hard-line immigration policies, after a trip to Mexico to speak with President Enrique Peña Nieto.

“He is not welcome to Mexico,” Mr. Fox said ahead of the Republican nominee’s planned visit on Wednesday. “We don’t want him. We reject his visit.”