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First Read: What Trump’s Latest Campaign Shake-Up Means

Donald Trump shakes up his campaign staff 3 months before election 0:52

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

What Trump's latest campaign shake-up means

For the second time in less than two months, Donald Trump has shaken up his presidential campaign. The first was when he fired former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski back on June 20. And the second came late last night, when we learned that Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen Bannon is the campaign's new CEO, while pollster and current adviser Kellyanne Conway has been promoted to campaign manager. Current Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort will remain in his job, but his influence will diminish. Our three takeaways on this new shakeup:

  1. Trump realizes he's losing: These kind of shake-ups don't happen when a presidential campaign is winning. The last time we remember when such an overhaul took place so late in the game was back in 2004, when John Kerry made significant changes to his campaign team. And here's the current reality for Trump: He's trailing in national polls by an average of about seven points, per RealClearPolitics; he's behind in almost every battleground-state poll we've seen, including our NBC/WSJ/Marist polls from last week; and he's losing to Clinton in the NBC battleground map.
  2. It's a return to Lewandowski without Lewandowski: As NBC's Ali Vitali writes, Manafort's earlier ascension was an effort to professionalize the campaign. "The expectation around Manafort's installation was for a more traditional campaign in terms of structure, strategy and messaging." But the Bannon-Conway moves represent a kind of return to Lewandowski -- without him back. "Trump's turn away from Manafort is in part a reversion to how he ran his campaign in the primary with then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Lewandowski's mantra was 'let Trump be Trump' and Trump wants to get back to that type of campaign culture," the Washington Post says.
  3. Trump is doubling down on nationalism and being an outsider: No conservative news organization better reflects Trump's nationalism and outsider status than Breitbart News, and Trump has now hired its chairman. As the Washington Post adds, "Breitbart News has been harshly critical of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and is seen as an antagonistic organ by congressional GOP leaders." Indeed, the Trump press release announcing Bannon's hire touts him being described by Bloomberg Businessweek as the "most dangerous political operative in America." Here is that Bloomberg profile of Bannon by Josh Green.

Shake-up overshadows Trump's appeal to African-American voters

Strikingly, this shakeup news completely overshadows the speech that Trump delivered last night in Wisconsin. NBC's Ali Vitali: "Donald Trump made his most direct pitch yet to African American voters Tuesday, connecting the recent violence in nearby Milwaukee to what he described as the plight of African Americans nationwide. The Midwest city experienced two nights of unrest after a black police officer fatally shot a black man who police said was armed and a threat. 'Law and order must be restored,' Trump said in this mostly white suburb an hour north of Milwaukee. 'It must be restored for the sake of all, but most especially for the sake of those living in the affected communities, of which there are many.' Trump called blacks the 'main victims' of the riots in Milwaukee. 'It's their jobs, it's their homes, it's their schools and communities that will suffer the most as a result,' Trump said. 'There's no compassion in tolerating lawless conduct for anyone.'" But if Trump is making an appeal to African Americans, why did he do so to a mostly white audience in a Wisconsin city that's 95% white?

Trump gets his first intel briefing

In addition to the shake-up news, Trump today is getting his first intelligence briefing. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell has the details: "Donald Trump selected retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to join him for his first intelligence briefing Wednesday in New York. According to sources familiar with the planning, the briefing may take up to two hours and would be conducted by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence but it is not anticipated that James Clapper would participate himself. Both Flynn and Christie need at least 'Top Secret' clearance for the briefing. Flynn and Christie previously had levels of security clearance for their past roles in Defense Intelligence and the US Attorneys Office, respectively… [T]he briefing will not occur in Trump Tower because a secure room known as a 'SCIF' is required for SCI matters, Sensitive Compartmented Information. The FBI in New York will provide this secure space."

A look at the current battleground-state advertising

Team Clinton $85 million, Team Trump $9 million: NBC's Hallie Jackson confirms a Wall Street Journal report that the Trump campaign will FINALLY air its first general-election ads on Friday in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. (But is the bigger story here where Trump is NOT advertising -- Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Virginia?) Yesterday, we reported that the Clinton camp has aired $61 million in ads, versus the Trump camp's $0. And when you add outside groups, it's Team Clinton $104 million, Team Trump $12 million. And here's one more way to slice and dice the ad-spending disparity: by battleground states.

NBC News

The Top 10 advertising markets

Speaking of advertising, here are the Top 10 markets that have seen the most money in ads in the 2016 presidential contest. The rankings are unchanged from last week.

  1. Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, FL: $9.6 million
  2. Tampa-St. Pete-Sarasota, FL: $8.9 million
  3. Cleveland-Akron, OH: $7.3 million
  4. Las Vegas, NV: $5.7 million
  5. Columbus, OH: $5.0 million
  6. Denver, CO: $4.2 million
  7. Charlotte, NC: $4.1 million
  8. West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, FL: $4.0 million
  9. Boston, MA (NH market): $3.2 million
  10. Raleigh-Durham, NC: $3.0 million

Ayotte camp hits Hassan in web video

Finally, in New Hampshire's competitive Senate race, the Kelly Ayotte (R) campaign has a new web video hitting challenger Maggie Hassan (D) for refusing to answer -- multiple times -- whether Hillary Clinton is honest and trustworthy.

On the trail

Hillary Clinton campaigns in Cleveland, OH at 1:15 pm ET… And Tim Kaine holds a roundtable event in Cedar Rapids, IA at noon ET.

Countdown to Election Day: 83 days