Donald Trump smiles during a campaign stop in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Aug. 3, 2016.(Photo: Evan Vucci, AP)
Donald Trump's fall campaign is off to a rough<span style="color: Red;">*</span>start, to say the least.
Under fire for any number of<span style="color: Red;">*</span>comments — from his dismissal of a Muslim couple who lost their son in the Iraq war to his joking ejection of a crying baby from a rally — Trump tried to get back on track Wednesday with a campaign swing through the pivotal state of Florida.
Pushing back on reports of internal dissension, Trump told supporters in Daytona Beach, Fla.: "The<span style="color: Red;">*</span>campaign is doing really well. It’s never been so well united."
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Meanwhile, a rising number of Republicans —<span style="color: Red;">*</span>many of whom opposed Trump during the GOP primaries earlier this year — are questioning the ability,<span style="color: Red;">*</span>competence<span style="color: Red;">*</span>and even the mental health of their presidential nominee.
"There's an awful lot of chatter about Trump among Republican operatives," said Rick Wilson, a Florida-based political consultant who has been critical of the New York businessman.
The talks range<span style="color: Red;">*</span>from having down-ballot Republicans walk away from Trump to somehow bumping him from the nominee's slot, officials said.
While Wilson said the<span style="color: Red;">*</span>latter speculation is probably "magical thinking," he added that "everybody believes we're in the desperate-measures phase."
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Rick Tyler, a former spokesman to Trump primary<span style="color: Red;">*</span>rival Ted Cruz, said it looks like the campaign is "in deep trouble," and the candidate "is just wasting day after day after day" in fights with people who are not his general election opponent, Hillary Clinton.
"It's like he's arguing with everyone except her," said Tyler, an MSNBC political commentator.
Trump's targets this week included two prominent members of his own party: House Speaker Paul Ryan and Arizona Sen. John McCain. The presidential candidate refused to endorse either lawmaker as they face GOP primaries later this month.
On Wednesday, Trump's own running mate broke with him on supporting Ryan, though he did so at the businessman's behest.
"I strongly support Paul Ryan, strongly endorse his re-election." Indiana Gov. Mike Pence told Fox News Channel, saying Trump "strongly encouraged" him to back the Wisconsin Republican.
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Meanwhile, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is furious at recent events that have dogged Trump's campaign, including the GOP nominee declining to<span style="color: Red;">*</span>endorse Ryan, said a party official who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Some Trump donors are also increasingly dismayed by his conduct.
Stanley Hubbard, a Minnesota broadcasting magnate who has helped a pro-Trump super PAC, called the GOP nominee’s behavior “crazy.”
Hubbard said he’s not withdrawing his support from Trump because he<span style="color: Red;">*</span>doesn’t want to leave the appointment of Supreme Court justices to Clinton. But, he said, “it might be time for an independent like Gary Johnson.”
He added: "Everyone I talk to is disgusted —<span style="color: Red;">*</span>you’ve got a crook on one side and a fruitcake on the other.”
Many officials and analysts pointed to one recent development that has<span style="color: Red;">*</span>undermined Trump's position: His denigration of Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the couple whose son died in Iraq.
After Khan spoke to last week's Democratic convention, criticizing Trump for his proposed temporary ban on Muslim entry into the United States, Trump suggested that the Clinton campaign wrote his speech and that Ghazala Khan stayed silent during it because she was forbidden to speak.
Hubbard said he was particularly disturbed by Trump’s response to Khizr Khan's statement that the Republican nominee<span style="color: Red;">*</span>had “sacrificed nothing and no one" <span style="color: Red;">*</span>in which<span style="color: Red;">*</span>the New York businessman<span style="color: Red;">*</span>countered that he had made a “lot of sacrifices” in building his company.
“Since when has building a business been a sacrifice?” Hubbard said. “It’s offensive.”
Aides to Trump, including his children, have long advised him to be more disciplined and not take the bait<span style="color: Red;">*</span>from critics, and will continue to do so, said people familiar with the inner workings of the campaign who were not authorized to speak publicly.
Paul Manafort, campaign chairman for Donald Trump, talks to reporters on July 17, 2016, on the floor of the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.<span style="color: Red;">*</span>(Photo: Matt Rourke, AP)
Campaign chairman<span style="color: Red;">*</span>Paul Manafort disputed reports that Republicans are planning an "intervention" with Trump, and told Fox News that the candidate will continue to focus his campaign on the shortcomings of Clinton and the Obama<span style="color: Red;">*</span>administration.
Saying that the Clinton campaign is pushing an anti-Trump narrative, Manafort said "the only need we have for an intervention is maybe with some media types who keep saying things that aren’t true."
There is great unity in my campaign, perhaps greater than ever before. I want to thank everyone for your tremendous support. Beat Crooked H!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 3, 2016
Supporters of Trump's campaign said he still has time to recover<span style="color: Red;">*</span>and note that Clinton is also unpopular with many voters.
Trump "has had a bad week," said Republican consultant Charles Black, but it is not necessarily fatal.
"If this was Oct. 3, this would be a huge problem," said Black, a long-time former business partner of Manafort's. "Since it's Aug. 3, it's probably not a huge problem — <span style="color: Red;">*</span>he has time to recover.".
Trump's actions are not much different than his actions during the primary campaign, analysts said. Playing to a different (and smaller) audience, Trump got beyond controversies by winning primaries or otherwise changing the story — a much more difficult task in a general election.
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Gingrich: Trump has been 'very self-destructive'
Newt Gingrich, a prominent Republican backer who has likened Trump to a quarterback who is throwing a spate of interceptions, said Trump "has a great deal of work to do," and needs to move from being a primary campaigner to a general election one.
"Those are two very different roles," Gingrich said, "and he has yet to fully make the transition."
Trump can probably do so, the former House speaker said: "He's a very smart man."
Contributing:<span style="color: Red;">*</span>Fredreka Schouten
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