While Donald Trump celebrates losing establishment Republicans — or, as he puts it, “the shackles are off me” — loyalist campaign aides are hunkered down inside Manhattan’s Trump Tower trying to plot a winning path to election day, just four weeks away.
“They are polling frantically and seeing what they need to focus on to guide him through the next month,” a source close to the campaign tells PEOPLE in the new issue, on newsstands Friday.
The campaign was sent corkscrewing into crisis last Friday with the leak of a 2005 video clip in which Trump crudely boasts to then-Access Hollywood host Billy Bush of forcing kisses on women — and grabbing their genitalia — with impunity. Dozens of prominent Republicans, from John McCain to Arnold Schwarzenegger, denounced Trump and renounced their support for his candidacy, while others briefly withdrew their support only to return it by Wednesday.
For more about Donald Trump’s controversial interactions with women, pick up a copy of this week’s PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
Now, says the PEOPLE source, “the campaign is working hard to retain support of their voters.” That involves getting him out on the road where Trump can feed off the adoration of his forgiving (or unfazed) crowds.
“He will be out with the people, where he does the best,” says the source.
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And now that Trump emerged from the eye of the crisis — not to mention Sunday’s second debate with Hillary Clinton — still standing, focus is shifting toward the Oct. 19 final showdown with Clinton. “The campaign is working to prepare Trump for the next debate because they feel he is stronger than at this time last week.”
As for the deluge of defections, the source says: “Trump’s base is totally enthused by his performance at the debate Sunday night. Most of those who pulled away are establishment Republicans and Donald was probably not their first choice anyway.”