Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump's top lieutenants told skeptical GOP leaders Thursday that their candidate 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.
In a recording of the closed-door meeting obtained by the Associated Press, Trump's newly hired senior aide, Paul Manafort, made the case to Republican National Committee members that Trump has two personalities: one in private and one onstage.
"When he's out on the stage, when he's talking about the kinds of things he's talking about on the stump, he's projecting an image that's for that purpose," Manafort said, adding "You'll start to see more depth of the person, the real person. You'll see a real different guy."
Manafort said Trump had acknowledged the need to moderate his personality ahead of a possible general election campaign.
"The part that he's been playing is evolving into the part that now you've been expecting, but he wasn't ready for, because he had first to complete the first phase" he claimed. "The negatives will come down. The image is going to change."
The message was welcomed by some party officials but criticized by others who suggested it raised doubts about his authenticity.