NEW YORK (AFP) – Donald Trump sought to reboot his flagging presidential bid on Friday dismissing his tainted campaign chairman, seeking to broaden his shrinking support base by appealing to black voters and visiting flood-ravaged Louisiana.
The resignation of the seasoned Republican strategist Paul Manafort – under fire for his pro-Kremlin ties and role in a Ukrainian corruption scandal – represents the Republican nominee’s latest effort to get back on track after weeks of crisis.
“This morning, Paul Manafort offered, and I accepted, his resignation from the campaign,” Trump said in a statement, thanking him for “his great work” and proclaiming him a “true professional.”
Earlier this week, Trump appointed Steve Bannon, a right-wing news executive, as CEO and promoted pollster Kellyanne Conway to campaign manager, in what has signalled a marked new tone following colossal missteps.
Trump shocked many on Thursday by expressing “regret” for past mistakes and began airing his first television ads on Friday in a desperate attempt to chip into Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s yawning lead in the polls.
The New York billionaire followed up by touring a flood-ravaged region of Louisiana, where officials say more than 86,000 people so far have registered for federal aid and 13 people have died.
Trump flew into Michigan later on Friday to address a rally, explaining his appearance in an open-necked shirt and trucker hat by saying he had come straight from “a tour of the suffering and devastation in Louisiana.”
“The spirit of the people is incredible, the devastation likewise,” he said. “Honestly, Obama ought to get off the golf course and get down there,” he added to cheers from the crowd.
He then launched into a sustained pitch for African American voters, who have overwhelmingly flocked to Clinton.
“Look how much African American communities have suffered under Democratic control,” he said. “To those I say the following: what do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump?”
Citing disproportionate levels of poverty, unemployment and failing schools, Trump claimed that “no group in America” has been more harmed than blacks by the former secretary of state’s policies.
He told the overwhelmingly white crowd that he was asking for the vote of “every single African American citizen” in the country.