Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will hire pollster Tony Fabrizio, a strategic shift as he reconfigures his campaign with an eye toward the general election.
A source close to the Trump campaign confirmed to NBC News the hire, which was first reported by Politico. Fabrizio is a veteran Republican pollster who most recently worked on Sen. Rand Paul's presidential campaign and Florida Gov. Rick Scott's campaign. He also conducted polling for then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry during the 2012 presidential race.
Fabrizio has deep roots in Florida, and is currently polling for Rep. Ron DeSantis' Senate campaign there. Fabrizio is also longtime friends with Trump adviser Paul Manafort and former campaign adviser Roger Stone, according to Politico.
Trump's hiring of Fabrizio is a significant departure from the candidate's past statements decrying pollsters and dismissing the need for polling to guide his campaign.
Though Trump has been notoriously preoccupied with polling throughout the primary and is known to spend large chunks of his stump speech touting his strength in the latest public polls, he himself never hired one to guide his campaign. And in August, he dismissed the use of pollsters in an interview with NBC News' Chuck Todd.
"I don't have pollsters. I don't want to waste money on pollsters. I don't want to be unreal. I want to be me. I have to be me," Trump said at the time. "You know, we have enough of that in Washington with pollsters telling everybody what to say and everybody being controlled by the special interests, and the lobbyists, et cetera, and the donors."
But with the GOP nomination nearly in hand, Trump has pivoted away from some of his past statements in opposition to traditional campaign tools. Most notably, Trump plans to hold fundraisers and take money from donors after largely self-funding his primary campaign and frequently touting that fact on the stump as evidence that he can't be "bought" like other politicians.
Trump's decision to hire a pollster is as risky as it is necessary as he looks towards the general election. Trump has built his brand around being an unfiltered and unapologetically honest messenger who keeps his own counsel. He risks damaging that brand by relying on message-testing for guidance.