HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Out on the campaign trail, Donald Trump relishes his feud with his own party. He threatened to sue the Republican National Committee. He called its nominating system “rigged,” “deceptive” and “a disgrace.” And he has suggested he might try to depose the party chairman.

But as RNC members gathered at a palatial beach resort here this week, Trump’s aides launched an urgent effort aimed at rebranding the mogul’s persona and thawing hostilities with the skittish party elite.

“We need unity as soon as possible,” said Ed Cox, the New York party chairman and a Trump supporter.

Yet while the charm offensive has made some progress, interviews with dozens of Republican officials here showed that ugt

“We’re the ones that built this party,” said Jonathan Barnett, a national committeeman from Arkansas. “You see so many states where they have never reached out or built an organization. … Remember, we’re good people. We’re the grass roots. We’ve been around a long time. And Trump needs us.”

Trump’s top campaign aide, Paul Manafort, assured RNC members here that Trump views the party leadership as “partners,” both in raising money and crafting a state-by-state strategy, and that his hot rhetoric has been “a part that he’s been playing” and will soon give way to a more presidential demeanor.


“He gets it,” Manafort told RNC members in a closed-door briefing Thursday.

Some members were skeptical of Manafort’s pitch.

“Trump keeps saying that he’s going to be so presidential that he’ll put you to sleep,” said Jose Cunningham, chairman of the District of Columbia Republican Party. “He loves to say that. His people say he’ll do that, have that demeanor. I’d still like to see that because, well, we haven’t.”

Trump himself is taking steps to repair relations. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called the billionaire mogul Wednesday to congratulate him on his blowout victory in the New York primary.

“We had a great talk, no problem,” Priebus said in an interview. “Donald Trump is conciliatory. You notice he hasn’t been saying ‘RNC’ lately. He hasn’t been saying that lately. He certainly hasn’t been talking about me lately.”

Priebus acknowledged that there likely are political benefits for Trump to rail against the process and use the RNC as a foil.


“They’ve made a calculation somehow that it works, ginning people up over accusations that the delegate selection process is ‘rigged,’ ” Priebus said. “I don’t think they would be doing it on a lark.”

For much of the campaign, the Trump operation seemed to alienate, even shun party officials who are accustomed to courtship by candidates.

Many officials took particular umbrage at Trump’s on-and-off public flirtation with ousting Priebus.

“Stop the attacks on Reince and the RNC leadership,” South Carolina Republican Chairman Matt Moore said. “Reince is the best chairman, I think, in the party’s history, and there is no question that he is the guy to lead us into the general election. Any discussion about a new chairman is completely stupid.”

On that point, Manafort said, “This discussion over the last few weeks has not been an anti-Reince campaign.”

Cruz as well as Ohio Gov. John Kasich addressed the RNC this week. Also present were leaders of Our Principles PAC, an anti-Trump super PAC, who huddled privately with some members Friday. The group’s chairwoman, Katie Packer, distributed a memorandum urging party leaders to do everything possible to stop Trump from locking up the nomination.

Manafort suggested that the individuals who have been appearing on cable television shows as Trump representatives will begin playing smaller roles as he asserts control over what he called “the narrative.”

“Now we’re transitioning,” Manafort said. “He’s trying to be the nominee and people want to see the entire package.”

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