Trump staffers said his incendiary rhetoric was merely ‘projecting an image’ and he’ll adopt a new persona for the general election. Plus Clinton staffers say there will be women on her VP short list … including Elizabeth Warren? (More)

“The part he’s been playing is now evolving”

Yesterday Donald Trump’s closest advisors admitted that he’s a fraud:

Donald Trump’s chief lieutenants told skeptical Republican leaders Thursday that the GOP front-runner has been “projecting an image” so far in the 2016 primary season and “the part that he’s been playing is now evolving” in a way that will improve his standing among general election voters.

The message, delivered behind closed doors in a private briefing, is part of the campaign’s intensifying effort to convince party leaders Trump will moderate his tone in the coming months to help deliver big electoral gains this fall, despite his contentious ways.

Stunningly, they don’t think this Etch-a-Sketching will raise questions about Trump’s integrity:

[Trump’s chief strategist Pau] Manafort argued that Clinton’s negative favorability ratings are caused by “character” issues, whereas Trump’s are fueled by “personality” concerns.

“Fixing personality negatives is a lot easier than fixing character negatives,” Manafort said. “You can’t change somebody’s character, but you can change the way a person presents himself.”

“None of us can give ourselves a personality transplant”

Umm, nope. Not buying the “personality” vs. “character” distinction. And neither are Democratic groups, nor are some GOP strategists:

“Donald Trump is going to have a hard time running away from his own words,” said Joel Foster, political director of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

The attacks underscore the difficulty that Trump and the Republican Party will have in softening the potential nominee’s rough edges for a general election campaign, particularly when brazenness is central to the candidate’s appeal to his followers.

“One thing you learn very quickly in political consulting is the fruitlessness of trying to get a candidate to change who he or she fundamentally is at their core,” said Republican strategist Whit Ayres, who did polling for Rubio’s presidential campaign before he dropped out of the race. “So is the snide, insulting, misogynistic guy we’ve seen really who Donald Trump is? Or is it the disciplined, respectful, unifying Trump we saw for seven minutes after the New York primary?

“None of us can give ourselves a personality transplant,” Ayres added.

“An increase in the bullying, harassment and intimidation of students”

More’s the point, Trump’s campaign style is already harming school children:

A fourth-grade teacher in the U.S. says her students – many of Hispanic descent – often “talk in fear” about the policies of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. “He hates Mexicans and wants to send my family back to Mexico,” one nine-year-old reportedly said.

That’s one of nearly 4,800 alarming responses to a Southern Poverty Law Center survey of U.S. teachers. They show that in the age of Trump classrooms have become a microcosm of an inflamed presidential race.

“We’re deeply concerned about the level of fear among minority children who feel threatened by both the incendiary campaign rhetoric and the bullying they’re encountering in school,” law centre president Richard Cohen said in a statement. “We’ve seen Donald Trump behave like a 12-year-old, and now we’re seeing 12-year-olds behave like Donald Trump.”

The civil rights group’s online survey asked teachers how the campaign is affecting schoolchildren. The answers reveal “an increase in the bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been the verbal targets of candidates,” according to the report.

The report found that many schools’ anti-bullying efforts have been undercut or even undone by Trump’s antics:

More than two-thirds of the teachers reported that students – mainly immigrants, children of immigrants and Muslims – have expressed concerns or fears about what might happen to them or their families after the election.

Heightened tension in the classroom means teachers have been reluctant to discuss those issues at a time when mutual understanding seems especially critical, noted Maureen Costello, who authored the report.

“Schools are finding that their anti-bullying work is being tested and, in many places, falling apart,” she said.

But he’s gonna remake his “personality” and it’ll all be fine, right? Yeah…

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“There will be women on that list”

Also, the Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey reports that Hillary Clinton’s campaign will include women in the VeepStakes:

Hillary Clinton’s short list of vice presidential options will include a woman, a top campaign official said in an interview – creating the possibility of an all-female ticket emerging from the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.

Clinton wants “the best person to make the case to the American people,” her campaign chairman, John Podesta, told the Globe. “We’ll start with a broad list and then begin to narrow it. But there is no question that there will be women on that list,” he said, adding that staffers are still focused on clinching the primary.

The development immediately injects liberal darling Senator Elizabeth Warren’s name into the growing speculation about who Clinton will choose as her running mate now that she is almost certainly on track to become the nominee.
[…]
Podesta didn’t offer names on Clinton’s list of possible women running mates, but after Clinton herself, Warren is one of the few Democratic women with national name recognition and a big following among progressives, a voting bloc Sanders has energized. Having Warren on the ticket could help Clinton stitch the party back together after a divisive primary.

“A specialized pick to fix a very particular problem – which doesn’t exist yet and likely won’t”

But the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza warns progressives not to expect a Clinton-Warren ticket:

Warren is clearly a first among equals in that group both for her fundraising prowess and her status as an icon of the liberal left. But, my strong sense is that Clinton and her inner circle will pick Warren only as a sort of last resort.

It’s not merely that Warren is the only female Democratic senator who has not yet endorsed Clinton, or that Warren raised several questions (such as Clinton’s Wall Street ties) that Bernie Sanders turned into an ongoing smear campaign.

The deeper issue, Cillizza argues, is that Clinton and Warren see the world very differently:

What’s been made obvious during the course of the Clinton-Sanders primary fight is that the electorate is split into Democrats who believe Wall Street needs to be closely watched and regulated but is not fundamentally evil and Democrats who believe Wall Street is corrupt through and through and must be treated as such. Clinton is on one side of this divide, Sanders and Warren are on the other.

Plus they just don’t seem likely to form a comfortable working partnership:

There appears to be very little warmth between Clinton and Warren. Clinton views Warren as someone able to embrace a Manichean view of Wall Street (and the world) because she has the luxury of not needing to ever really deal with people who feel differently. (Massachusetts, particularly at the federal level, is effectively a one-party state.) Warren views Clinton in much the same light that Sanders has cast the former secretary of state in this campaign: prone to deal-making and insufficiently committed to core liberal principles.

Cillizza argues that Warren would be a last-resort pick, chosen if and only if Clinton thinks very-liberal voters might sit on their hands in November. And so far polls show that doesn’t look likely. Yes, very-liberal voters tend to prefer Sanders in a primary contest, but the same polls show the overwhelming majority of them will back Clinton over Trump or Cruz in the general election. Cillizza concludes:

Seen through that lens, Warren is more of a specialized pick to fix a very particular problem – which doesn’t exist yet and likely won’t – than she is a true shortlister to be Clinton’s vice president. Short of the “panic button” scenario I lay out above, I don’t see Clinton even seriously considering Warren to be her second-in-command.

Why take on an unnecessary challenge?

To that I’ll add another relevant fact. Massachusetts has a Republican governor, and he would appoint Warren’s successor pending a special election. That would put a Republican in Warren’s U.S. Senate seat … while Clinton was trying to push her initial policy agenda through Congress. Why take on the unnecessary challenge of having to flip one more vote to pass a bill or stop a filibuster?

If Clinton wants a senator as her running mate, Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar is a better choice. First, Gov. Mark Dayton would certainly appoint a woman to fill Klobuchar’s seat and his appointment would serve until the 2018 midterms. Second, Clinton and Klobuchar seem to share a warmer relationship. Finally, at age 55, Klobuchar is 11 years younger than Warren … and Democrats need to begin advancing younger leaders.

Of course, my advice to the Clinton campaign is worth exactly what they’re paying for it. And they haven’t sent me any macadamias. Even so, I want to keep Sen. Warren in the Senate. I think she can do more good there, and losing her Senate vote at a pivotal time in Clinton’s first term seems very shortsighted.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Good day and good nuts