As GOP criticism mounts, Trump campaign goes on the defensive

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Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort talks to the media from the Trump family box on the floor of  the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTSIMJC

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GWEN IFILL: It has been a whirlwind day for the Trump campaign, which is now in full damage control.

As Lisa Desjardins reports, the Republican ticket is working to get back on the offensive.

LISA DESJARDINS: The assurances came from Donald Trump himself in Daytona Beach, Florida.

DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: The campaign is doing really well. It’s never been so well-united. I would say, right now, it’s the best, in terms of being united, that it’s been since we began.

LISA DESJARDINS: And more affirmation came from Paul Manafort, the man now running Trump’s campaign, during a FOX News interview.

PAUL MANAFORT, Chair, Trump Campaign: The campaign is focused. The campaign is moving forward in a positive way. The only need we have for an intervention is maybe with some media types who keep saying things that aren’t true.

LISA DESJARDINS: This after a swirl of stories looking at doubts within Republican ranks about Trump, and at possible divisions within the Trump campaign.

This morning, Trump ally and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said the candidate needs to recalibrate.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), Former Speaker of the House: I think some of what Trump has done is just very self-destructive.

LISA DESJARDINS: And, last night, Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, a major fund-raiser, told The New York Times that she’s voting for Democrat Hillary Clinton, becoming one of the highest-profile Republicans to do so.

Also today, it was widely reported that some high-level Republicans, including party Chairman Reince Priebus, may meet with the nominee soon to talk about his approach — all this after a Washington Post interview in which Trump jumped between topics and refused to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator John McCain, that on top of Trump’s weekend interview with ABC News which sparked controversy about whether he thinks Russian forces are in Ukraine, and about his pushing back at the Khan family, who lost their son in the line of duty in Iraq.

Today, some damage control. During a phone interview with FOX News, Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, said he is endorsing Paul Ryan.

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), Vice Presidential Nominee: I talked to Donald Trump this morning about my support for Paul Ryan, our longtime friendship. He strongly encouraged me to endorse Paul Ryan in next Tuesday’s primary, and I’m pleased to do it.

LISA DESJARDINS: The swirling splinters on the right are fast fuel for Trump’s opposition. A pro-Clinton super PAC released this ad today:

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.): He doesn’t have the temperament or judgment to control himself.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-Fla.): We’re about to turn over the nuclear codes of the United States to an erratic individual.

LISA DESJARDINS: As for Hillary Clinton herself, she spent today in Colorado.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), Presidential Nominee: And I’m thrilled to have this chance to visit.

LISA DESJARDINS: While her running mate, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, introduced himself to North Carolina voters, talking up their plans to aid small business.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), Vice Presidential Nominee: As we are looking at economic plans, and I’m out basically talking about jobs, that we focus on the growth of small businesses.

LISA DESJARDINS: North Carolina is a key battleground, so, no coincidence, it’s where Mike Pence will campaign tomorrow.

GWEN IFILL: And Lisa joins me at the table now.

Lisa, you have been talking to folks all day long. Give me a sense. How concerned really are mainstream rank-and-file Republicans about the state of the campaign?

LISA DESJARDINS: Well, one of the questions is, what is a mainstream Republican these days?

GWEN IFILL: Right.

LISA DESJARDINS: But I can say Republican leadership is concerned.

A high-level Republican Party source told me that Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus is — quote — “furious” with Donald Trump. These are not words that are thrown around in such a place. And that’s a problem for Donald Trump, because he needs the RNC’s operation to get out the vote.

Usually, candidates do. Also, calling members of Congress — we now have more members of Congress coming out and saying openly they are not voting for Trump. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, I talked to him on the phone extensively today, and also Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Now, those are two very significant members, not just because they’re Republicans, but they’re Republicans from swing states that Donald Trump wants.

GWEN IFILL: But Trump came out today and said that the party is as united as ever before. What do his supporters say?

LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

So, you talk to Donald Trump supporters — I talked to one, the chairman of his campaign in South Carolina, Ed McMullen. He says this is all a complete disconnect, that the Washington Republican establishment doesn’t get what’s happening on the ground.

He says Trump voters and the voters they want aren’t talking about the Khan family. They’re thinking about their own vacations. They’re thinking about their own jobs. And he said he doesn’t think this is a long-term hit for Donald Trump.

GWEN IFILL: And yet he’s doing pretty well in the money department this month.

LISA DESJARDINS: Yes, big news from the Trump campaign. They raised $80 million in the last month. That’s a little bit below the Clinton toll, which was $90 million, but it’s a huge improvement. It shows that the Trump campaign, along with the RNC, can raise money.

GWEN IFILL: OK, Lisa Desjardins, thank you.

LISA DESJARDINS: Pleasure.

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